Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 8 November 2015





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Hashan Cooray: Creative empathy

Hashan Cooray

Hashan Cooray is a contradictory artist who though influenced by modernism and postmodernism, reflects disillusionment with modern life in his paintings, three of which(featured here) are allegorically titled 'At the Gates of Heaven', 'Reflection' and 'Behind the Scene'. Unabashedly admitting to cynicism and doubt in society, which he blames on the world wars, he both universalises and generalises the human condition and the war experience in his paintings, claiming that all wars cause the same pain and suffering in humans.

His painting titled 'At the Gates of Heaven' explores the dissipation and degeneration of modern life through the character of Marilyn Monroe. In a style that hints at touches of Van Gogh, Hashan strives to capture the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe, a vulnerable girl who was abused as a child and ruthlessly exploited by the movie industry, which used her to serve their commercial purposes. The metamorphosis of Norma Jean into Marilyn Monroe and her decline during the final years of her life is movingly portrayed by Hashan, revealing her isolation and loneliness and her futile search for love with the wrong men.

At the Gate of Heaven

'Reflection' on the other hand reveals the horrors of war through the examination of the destruction it causes both to human existence and infrastructure. Hashan focuses on a poor, elderly farmer who has lost his livelihood and is reduced to abject poverty because of the Second World War. The farmer's aspirations and dreams are shattered by the war and the artist powerfully captures this through the sadness visible in the subject's facial expression.

Hashan explores his pre-occupation with modernism and postmodernism through the figure of the magician in 'Behind the Scene'. He juxtaposes fantasy with reality by focusing on the magician's art, which is elusive, and thereby examines the boundary between the real and the unreal. There is an element of suspense, disbelief and intrigue in the magician's art, which is illuminated by Hashan through the vivid yet muted depiction of the magician.

Hashan, who has a diploma in art and fine tuned his art attending a course at the Goethe Institute in Colombo, says his favourite medium is acrylic on canvas because it enables him to complete his paintings within a short period of time. He says his technique is defined by strong brush strokes and attention to detail.

Currently a senior art director at an advertising agency, Hashan is married and says he is grateful to his wife who is very supportive and gives him the time and space he needs for painting.

Behind the scene



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