Download Programme

2011 Symposium on the Decorative Arts of Sri Lanka:
The Interconnected World of Eurasia

ABSTRACTS and BIODATA

 

Dr. Anning Jing
 
Abstracts

Buddhist Art of Tang China and South Asia

My paper will examine both textual and material evidences of cultural and artistic contacts between the Tang Dynasty (618-907) of China and South Asia. During the Tang Dynasty, maritime trade between China and South Asia was flourishing, which also facilitated material and cultural exchanges along the trade routes. I will focus particularly on comparison between Borobudur, the single largest monument in the Buddhist world, with a “secret disc” known as "shi" described in an important but previous neglected Buddhist text of the Tang Dynasty. I contend that "shi" is a prototype of the Buddhist mandala (a cosmological diagram), and it provided the underlying structure for the early surviving mandalas of the Tathagata family centering on the Buddha Vairocana, including Borobudur and the various versions of the Two World Mandalas now in Japan. It is also the structural basis for later different versions of Tibetan mandalas of the Vajra family centering on the Buddha Akshobhya.

The affinity between shi and Borobudur in both totality and details points to a different model of Buddhist diffusion. New Buddhist ideas clearly did not spread just one way from the west to the east but sometimes vice versa. The westward flow of ideas may have reached as far as Ellora in Western India, as shown in some nine-fold mandalas in the Ellora Buddhist caves. It was in this mode of cultural exchanges that the concepts, texts, models, or practitioners of the “secret disc” or shi must have reached the site of Borobudur.

 
Biodata

Department of Art and Art History Michigan State University, USA.
Anning Jing received his Ph. D. degree in Chinese art from Princeton University in 1994. He has been teaching Asian art in the Department of Art and Art History at Michigan State University since 1995. His books include The Water God's Temple of the Guangsheng Monastery: Cosmic Function of Art, Ritual, and Theater  (Leiden: Brill, 2002), and Yuandai biha “Shenxianfuhui tu” (The Yuan Murals “Assembly of the Immortals”) (in Chinese), (Beijing: Beijing University Press, 2002). His most recent book, titled “Temples, Images, and Patriarchs of the Complete Realization School of Daoism” (in Chinese), will be published by Zhonghua shuju in Beijing in 2011. Recently he co-edited a book titled Studies in Sino-Tibetan Buddhist Art
(Shanghai: Shanghai guji chuban she, 2009).
jinga@msu.edu

 

Dr. Shanti Jayewardene Pillai

 
Abstracts

Tara: at home in London?

Tara is a female Bodhisattva, the most beloved goddess of the Mahayana pantheon and a female Buddha in the Tantric tradition. She appears in several of her manifestations in Sri Lanka where the earliest evidence for her presence is probably from the eighth century. She was first acknowledged by scholars, only in 1951. Sri Lanka’s best images of Tara, the almost life size standing image and a seated gilt bronze one, said to be the ‘finest known Sri Lankan bronze’, are in London, in the British Museum. A museum presentation claimed that Tara is no longer venerated in Sri Lanka. Very little is known about how she was worshipped in Sri Lanka but, in a different guises, Tara is still, if marginally, revered in Sri Lanka and it is none other than her companion Lord Avalokitesvara, not to be seen by the public, who resides in the prestigious Natha devale in Kandy. It is intriguing that no Sri Lankan government has seriously requested the return of the images held in London. In the changing landscape of both Theravada studies and historical studies engaging the colonial production of knowledge, the observation that ‘the role of the Mahayana in the cultural development of Sri Lanka is grossly underrated both in the traditional histories and in modern commentary’ gains a fresh resonance. This paper considers the theme that the interpretive framing of colonial and nationalist historiography in Sri Lanka is implicated in the neglect of Tara studies and her western sojourn.

 

Dr. Shanti Jayewardene Pillai
UK & Sri Lanka

Biodata

Shanti Jayewardene Pillai trained as an architect in Sri Lanka and London. She has an MSc in the history of modern architecture from University College London and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. She has worked as an architect in Sri Lanka and the UK, taught architectural history at University College London and contributed as an editor for Mimar Architecture in Development. Her research interest is the intersection of architectural and imperial history in South Asia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She recently published a book Imperial Conversations: Indo-Britons and the Architecture of South India. She is an independent researcher currently engaged in teaching history at the faculty of architecture, University of Moratuwa, and working on a book chapter on the monastic gardens of Sri Lanka.
shantipillai@yahoo.com

 

 

Professor Nimal de Silva

 
Abstracts

The Decorative Art Tradition in Ola Leaf Manuscripts

Writing on palm leaf was an ancient tradition in Asia.  As recorded in Sri Lankan chronicles, the Thripitaka doctrine of the Buddha was written on palm leaves as early as 1st century BC.  Since then preparing and writing palm leaf manuscripts in Sri Lanka has continuously developed as a science and art.

The preparation of a palm leaf book is a combination of many components, prepared palm leaves for writing, calligraphy, metal writing style, timber covers, three colored binding cord, sakiya or end hole and a special box to store books.  In addition to the science of making these books, it was colorfully and artistically decorated, forming a part of the traditional art of Sri Lanka. In addition to the traditional calligraphy of Sinhala letters, the writer has decorated the manuscript with traditional design motifs and pictorial illustrations highlighting the different episodes described in the written part.

Linear wooden book cover is the most decorated and colorful component of the book.  The cover carved or painted with floral and geometric pattern in lac using mainly yellow, red and black.  The inner surface of the cover is occasionally painted with solosmastana or sixteen sacred places associated with the Buddha’s visit to Sri Lanka, and floral and other designs.  The end hole of the binding cord is a piece of jewelry, beautifully decorated and sometimes studded with gems.  A special storage box made to place these valuable palm leaves manuscripts is also a piece of art decorated with color illustrations of Jataka stories and floral designs.  This tradition was to bring artistic creation into the process of preparing and processing palm leaf manuscripts in Sri Lanka
 

Professor Nimal de Silva
Sri Lanka

Biodata

Professor Nimal de Silva is the Director General of the CCF- Central Cultural Fund, and Senior Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, University of Moratuwa.  He had held the positions as Director, Postgraduate Institute of Archeology (PGIAR), University of Kelaniya; Chairman, National Design Center; and Chairman, Urban Development Authority.  He is a chartered architect specializing in conservation, archeology, and art history, and he is the author of many publications.
nimaldes@pgiar.lk

 

Dr. SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda

 
Abstracts

The Simhala Avadana and the Myth of Arrival ,Pilgrimage, Transmission and Mythology in Ancient India and Sri lanka

Every country has its national myth,which is then  gradually absorbed into the artistic inheritance of its homeland. Sri Lanka has legend of lion. The arrival of Price Vijaya, his subjugation of the demons and the conquest of the island of sri lanka. Although it is so deeply embedded on the island’s literature, history and folklore, this tale has hardly ever been depicted visually.

In the 5th century AD however, this seminal event is recorded in a series of murals on the walls of the monastery of Ajanta in western India. Called the Simhala Avadana, it tells the story of the arrival of Prince Simhala in Lanka, his encounter with the Queen of the Rakshshis and her she devils and his later conquest of the island. Part this mural is also embodied in a jataka Tale, The Valahassa jataka,. However the main source for this series is the Chinese pilgrim, traveler and Buddhist monk Hsuan-tsang (c.602-664s)Although he never travelled to the island, it is this Chinese monk who is our principal authority for the national myth of Lanka. Crisscrossing the heart of Asia in search of knowledge, he is the very embodiment of the theme of this symposium, the diffusion of cultures through the power of travel and transmission.

 

Dr. SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda
Sri Lanka

Biodata

B.A. Hons (Wales), M.A. Medieval Studies (York), Ph.D. History (London).
Writer, historian and art historian, SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda has produced three major works on the art and culture of Sri Lanka, The World of Stanley Kirinde (2005) Ridi Vihare, The Flowering of Kandyan Art (2007), and Eloquence in Stone, The Lithic Saga of Sri Lanka (2008) in collaboration with Nihal Fernando.
He has lectured in the USA, UK, India and Sri Lanka and in 2005-2006 he was Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he taught the first course given in the west on the Evolution of Art and Architecture in Sri Lanka. (500 BC-1815 AD). During Asian Art Week in London 2009, he delivered the first series of lectures entirely on the art and culture of Sri Lanka at SOAS, Institute of Archaeology, the Nehru Centre and Royal Asiatic Society.
srtd@eol.lk

 

Dr. R. Mahalakshmi

 
Abstracts

Significant Images, Signifying Representations: Syncretism, Accommodation and Marginalization in Cōa Iconography'

There has been scholarly scrutiny of the Cōla period as one of imperial expansion marked by the growth of territorial and administrative power, legitimized by the use of religious ideological devices. The building of temples across the Tamil macro-region and the grandness of scale that was effected allowed for the creation of visual canvases to explicate the mythologies related to the deities in whose honour the temples were constructed. This was a period in which what I call the 'the transformation of the cultural landscape' was clearly manifested, when brahmanas and the brahmanical temple became prominent actors in Tamil society, and the Vedic and Puranic ideas were translated and Tamilized. In the process, there was an interesting integration of traditions that cannot be understood through watertight concepts for cultural interaction such as Great and Little traditions or Sanskritization or brahmanization. I will be looking at iconographic representations of goddesses, both consort and independent female deities, in Saiva temples to unravel the semiotic interplay of the image and the signification rendered through the mythic canvas, where Siva and the goddess(es) are alternatively seen as complementary, as adversaries and as a hierogamous couple.

 

Dr. R. Mahalakshmi
India

Biodata

Dr. R. Mahalakshmi teaches at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has specialized on the political economy and religious culture of early medieval Tamilnadu. She has recently published a monograph on the myths, rituals and iconography of the goddess Lakshmi (The Book of Lakshmi) Penguin Viking, 2009). Her book on The Making of the Goddess in Early Medieval Tamilnadu (Penguin Viking) is in press. She has recently been working on Sakta and tribal goddesses and religion in the Chotanagpur area of India, and on Brahmanical temples in Sri Lanka.
mahaarakesh@gmail.com

 

Dr. Martha Chaiklin

 
Abstracts

The Corners of the Empire: The Sri Lankan Impact on Early Modern Japanese Decorative Art

Sri Lanka and Japan were two islands on the edges of the Dutch East India Company Empire. Sri Lanka is often lost in the shadow of its neighbor, the Indian subcontinent but its impact on the early modern world was far ranging.  Japan is an excellent case study that demonstrates this.   In the early modern world, neither the Sinhalese nor the Japanese had large ocean-going vessels of their own but were connected through the European trading empires.  The Company promoted trade that had not historically existed between these two regions but ultimately had significant impact on Japan, a country that was theoretically closed to foreign trade.  

A number of Sri Lankan products were exported to Japan, including the best-known and studied commodity, cinnamon.  This paper will focus on commodities that are less commonly studied but had a significant impact on the material world of early modern Japan:  tortoiseshell, stingray skins and ivory.   Primary source documents in Dutch, Japanese and English about geography and customs as well as trade documents and objects will be used to show the extent of this trade and an awareness of Sri Lanka among the early modern Japanese and document how these raw materials were extensively incorporated into Japanese culture.

 

Dr. Martha Chaiklin
USA

Biodata

Martha Chaiklin has an undergraduate from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters Degrees from the University of Michigan and Seijo University (Tokyo). She obtained her PhD at Leiden University. She is currently an assistant professor at the History Department, University of Pittsburgh.  Her research focuses on the impacted of global trade on local material culture in Asia.  In addition to the monograph Cultural Commerce and Dutch Commercial Culture—The Impact European Material Culture on Japan, 1700-1850, she has authored, most recently, articles on mermaid exports from Japan, ivory in world history, Japanese hair ornaments, and the ‘opening’ of Japan.  She is currently writing a book about ivory trade and consumption in early modern Asia.
chaiklin@pitt.edu

 

Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis

 
Abstracts

Ceylonese Ivory Carvings in Dutch Collections

In Dutch museums and few private collections, a number of Ceylonese ivory carvings are preserved, dating from the late 17th to the third quarter of the 18th century. They are examples of Company art, art objects made in Asia for European customers in the era of the European East India companies. The Dutch company, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), was during its 150 years presence in Sri Lanka (1658 -1798) the sole European East India company represented in the country - and the de facto ruler of the island. Quite a number of Ceylonese ivory carvings are preserved, which were manufactured between c. 1670 and the third decade of the 18th century to the order of employees of the Dutch East India Company. In style and execution these carvings, which adorn caskets and small cabinets, are rather different from those from the preceding, Portuguese period of Ceylon, which were made for the court of Portugal and for further trading in Lisbon. They testify to the changes in Europe in the taste for luxury goods from Asia.

Some groups can be distinguished in the carvings manufactured under Dutch patronage, which were often intended fur further trading in Amsterdam, particularly with regard to their iconography and style. Accordingly, it is possible to allocate two groups of these ivory carvings to places, which were traditionally known as centres of this craft, that is Jaffna and the Matara - Galle area. A third group was possibly made in Colombo and/or Kalutura.

A few ivory combs will also be discussed, which were made in Ceylon without European intervention. These were brought to the Netherlands in the 18th century as ‘curios’, objects of ethnographic interest. They were placed in Dutch cabinets of curiosities.  

 

Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis
Netherlands

Biodata

Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis studied Art History and South East Asian Art at the University of Amsterdam. She worked as scientific assistant at the Institute for South and South East Asian Archaeology of University of Amsterdam, as liaison officer for museums at the Dutch Ministry of Culture and consequently as Curator of Applied Art at the state owned Art Collections, present day The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN). Since 1992 until her retirement (2010) she was Curator of Textiles at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Her publications mainly relate to Indian export textiles, European tapestries and contemporary Dutch design. In 2004 she published European Tapestries in the Rijksmuseum (co-author Hillie Smit), a catalogue of the holdings of the Rijksmuseum. In 2009 she published Weaving Myths. Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Diana Tapestries in the Rijksmuseum. In 2010 she was Co-Curator of the exhibition Tijdloos Trendy (Timeless Trendy) in Duivenvoorde Castle, near The Hague. A book about Company Art in the Rijksmuseum, co-authored by Jan van Campen, will appear in September 2011.
hartkamp-jonxis@hetnet.nl

 

Ayesha Abdur-Rahman

 
Abstracts

The Evolution of Furniture in Sri Lanka: Ancient, Medieval and Kandyan.

My paper will examine the evolution of furniture in Sri Lanka.  Stone beds from sites in Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa will be discussed.  How were these beds built and used?  Stone, a permanent material has left skeletal evidence supporting the use of furniture in ancient Lanka.  Evidence in wood or metal has not remained from this early period.  Fragments of wall painting from the interior walls of 12th century Tivanka Pilimage, in Polonnaruwa, reveal several types of seats, painted in a manner indicating the use of sumptuous furniture and furnishings.  Literary references to furniture recorded in the early chronicles, further supports the existence of a variety of furniture forms.  The Indian Ocean crossroads culture, with the diffusion, flow of ideas and intermingling of form and style, has contributed towards development of style.  During the Kandyan period, craftsmen were both local and resident south Indian Nayyaker artisans, converging with western material culture contributes significantly to the formation of the indigenous style of the last kingdom, ending in 1815.  Although a few 18th century objects are recorded in A. K. Coomaraswamy, Medieval Sinhalese Art, 1908, recent studies have discovered objects from the Kandyan area that were not previously documented or analyzed.  My studies reveal the earliest evidence of rare wooden furniture.  My paper concludes that various forms and stylistic differences exist, where traditional, south Indian - Kerala and Madura forms, Indo-Portuguese and later Dutch style, sometimes blending, and sometime stand apart, revealing hybrid and eclectic styles.

 

Ayesha Abdur-Rahman
Sri Lanka & Puerto Rico

Biodata

Ayesha Abdur-Rahman is a decorative arts historian.  She has a BA in Dress and Textile, Central St. Martin’s College of Art and Design, London.  Thesis: Mughal Costume; MA in the History of Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, Bard Graduate Center, Bard College, New York. Thesis: Beadwork of the South African Nguni (Xhosa and Zulu Peoples): General Principles and Guidelines for Attribution; Mphil from the Post Graduate Institute of Archeology, University of Kelaniya, where she is currently completing her PhD.  Her dissertation research focuses on the evolution of Sri Lankan Furniture.  She worked as Associate Curator of the Visual Media Resources at the Bard Graduate Center, and was a curatorial intern in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  In 2010, dlir.aiys.org/LALORC/AISLS/aboutFDASL.htm published Furniture and Decorative Arts of Sri Lanka.  Ayesha is founder of LDA - Lanka Decorative Arts, and organized in 2008 the first international workshop on the Decorative Arts of Sri Lanka, in Colombo.  A second was convened in 2009. ayesha.abdurrahman@gmail.com, ayesha@srilankadeorativearts.org

 

Dr. B. D. Nandadeva

 
Abstracts

Connecting to the World through Art Technologies: Painting Materials of Foreign Origin in Ancient and Pre-modern Sri Lanka

Although no physical evidence of art materials such as pigments or plasters used in mural paintings precedes the AD 5th century paintings at Sigiriya has been found so far, literary evidence suggests the use of a red pigment known as hingul or hinguli or dehingul by the Sinhalese artists as early as the second century BC.  The identification of hingul as cinnabar, a mineral that does not naturally occur in Sri Lanka, opens up a new area of research to examine the place occupied by pigments and other materials of art in international trade that connected Sri Lanka with the rest of the world as early as the beginnings of the history of the island.

While cinnabar has not been found in Sri Lankan wall paintings until the mid-eighteenth century, researchers have found two other imported pigments, such as terra-verte and lapis-lazuli, in early- and middle-historical period paintings.  This shows that the Sri Lankans have been engaged in the trade of paint materials in the early and middle historical periods from third century BC to the end of the 13th century.

The use of imported pigments by Sri Lankan artists shows the extent to which the Sri Lankan painting technology is interconnected with painting technologies in various other parts of the world.  Often, sophisticated scientific analytical techniques are required to identify a pigment present in a study sample, where sample preparation techniques too can be extremely complex.  In this paper, the writer will describe his research on the characterization of imported pigments found in six temples that belong to the Kandyan and later periods.

 

Professor B.D. Nandadeva
Sri Lanka

Biodata

Professor B.D. Nandadeva has a multidisciplinary background that combines art history, technical art history, conservation science, and cultural heritage management.  He obtained his B.A. (Hons) in Fine Arts from the University of Ceylon, M.Sc. in Architectural Conservation of Monuments and Sites from the University of Moratuwa, Graduate Diploma in Rock Art Conservation from the University of Canberra, Australia, and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, USA.  His publications cover a range of topics that include Sri Lankan rock art, terracotta figurines of Sri Lanka, mud-architectural techniques, mural painting technology, influence of colonialism on art, influence of civil war on art, wall painting conservation etc.  Currently, he is Professor at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka where he teaches art history and cultural heritage management.
nandadeva2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

Dr. Robin Jones

 
Abstracts

Continuity and Creative Adaptation in the Decorative and Fine Arts of Nineteenth Century Ceylon.

This paper discusses examples of nineteenth century decorative and fine arts from Sri Lanka, specifically local traditions of woodworking, particularly furniture, and the painted decoration of Buddhist image houses. The colonial era in South Asia has been represented as a period of disruption to local material culture practices. In fact, a discourse of decline in local cultural traditions in South Asia, including both India and Sri Lanka, has been articulated by a number of commentators, including Ananda Coomaraswamy and other scholars.

Instead of examining disruptions to local cultural forms and practices, this paper discusses evidence of continuities and creative adaptations in the field of Sri Lankan decorative arts (woodwork/furniture) and local traditions of temple painting, between 1800 and 1890. It suggests that over-looked and not entirely detrimental processes were at work within nineteenth century Ceylonese artistic and craft production.

This paper investigates a process of ‘combination and convergence’ (Senake Bandaranayake) within artistic production on the island. This phrase describes the merging of local idioms with western built forms but can also be applied in the analysis of the development of hybrid art forms. The output of both local woodworkers and temple painters will be interpreted as a process of ‘resistant adaptation’ to alien forms, examining how those in inferior positions of power make active use of the material culture of those who hold power over them. Finally, this paper argues for a more nuanced understanding of the negotiations between local craftsmen and western material culture in nineteenth century Sri Lanka.

 

Dr. Robin Jones
UK

Biodata

Robin Jones is Principal Lecturer and Programme Group Leader in the School of Visual Arts at Southampton Solent University. His doctoral research examined the material culture of colonial Sri Lanka from a design history perspective. Some of the results of that research have been published previously in Studies in the Decorative Arts (2002), South Asian Studies (2004), Apollo (2006), and the Journal of Modern Craft (2008). More recent research has investigated the material culture, built environment and formation of identity in colonial South Asia and his book Interiors of Empire: objects, space and identity within the Indian Subcontinent, 1800-1947 was published by Manchester University Press in 2007. His latest research project interrogates the place of the modern in near-contemporary South Asia, and examines the built environment, landscapes and visual culture of post-independence Sri Lanka and India.
robin.jones@solent.ac.uk

 

Ismeth Raheem

 
Abstracts

Costume and Dress in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka; Hippolyte Silvaf (1801-1879)

Phillip Hippolyte Silvaf was born in 1801 in Pondicherry, the chief French settlement in South India, to parents who claimed to be French. The spelling of the name Silvaf appears to be unique, and is evidently a cor­ruption of the common Portuguese name Silva. It is probable that Silvaf’s father, whose surname was Hippolyte, subsequently added to his name the letter f, which was an abbreviation for “fils”- (son of as in French). Thus through usage, the name resulted in the corrupted in the spelling  ”Silvaf"

Arriving in Sri Lanka sometime during the 1820s, Hippolyte Silvaf became one of Sri Lanka’s most prolific 19th century artists. Better known for his portraits of the elite Sinhalese families, he was less well known for his natural history documentation. He was also widely known for recording the ever-changing urban scenes of Colombo and Kandy. Very few people however are aware of the contributions he made towards the recording of costumes and dress.

Between 1830 and 1840 Silvaf worked part time as an illustrator for the Military Museum in the Fort of Colombo. By 1839 he had prepared a folio of some 15 drawings of Sri Lankan costumes that was finally published in 1867. Between 1845 and 1850 Silvaf tried his hand as a painter of miniatures and had some success in producing hand-colored daguerreotype portraits. By 1850 he was sufficiently well recognized to have his portraits and natural history drawings reviewed in Young Ceylon (vol.1, no.1), a journal devoted princi­pally to the arts.

 

Ismeth Raheem
Sri Lank

Biodata

Ismeth Raheem graduated as an architect from the Royal Danish Academy (Copenhagen) in 1969 and later worked as an assistant for architect Geoffrey Bawa before setting up his own firm.  He is also an artist, exhibiting in Colombo (1958), Paris (1959), San Francisco (1960), Copenhagen (1968 and 1975), Montreal (1973) and Geneva (1975), and was founder of the Young Artist Group in 1963.
He specializes in the paintings and engravings of the colonial period in Sri Lanka and has published several exhibition catalogues for local and international institutions, in addition to contributing to the Dictionary of Art (London: Macmillan 1996).  In 1986 he organized and wrote the catalogue for an exhibition of engravings by the 19th century British artists in Ceylon.  He has lectured on subjects such as natural history and photography at the Sri Lanka branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, besides being its Vice-President.  As an avowed conservationist and naturalist, he has contributed several articles to journals both in Sri Lanka and abroad, and is currently Chairman of the Ceylon Bird Club (est.1944).
iraheem@eureka.lk, pcir@eureka.lk

 

Shevanthie Goonesekera

 
Abstracts

A Revolutionary Route. The artistic journey of the Russian Émigré Painter Alexander Dimitri Sofronoff.

This paper will follow the passage of the artist Alexander Sofronoff from his early artistic training in Yekaterinburg, East of the Ural Mountains in Central Russia, through an arduous 17 day journey covering 7,573 miles on the Trans Siberian railway connecting the Far East with Western Europe, whilst fleeing the Russian Revolution. It will look at his transition and establishment as a skilled and technical artist in the field of theatrical set design in Harbin (Manchuria) and Shanghai (China), and his final journey to Ceylon-Sri Lanka in 1936, incorporating a brief visit to India in 1946.

We will examine the influences that coloured Sofronoff’s paintings throughout this personal journey across Eurasia, his style and his method of painting. It will focus on the technical application of his artistic training in his new and challenging circumstances, through an appraisal of his paintings; still life and portraits with particular attention to his landscapes. It will also discuss his life in Ceylon, his employment as décor artiste at the Galle Face Hotel, the successful exhibitions held at the hotel and his close connection to the British community in Ceylon,

Sofronoff left a poignant record through his prolific paintings of the island, creating a lasting legacy and imprint that was to influence the work of other Sri Lankan artists. What was the significance of his contribution?
 

Ms. Shevanthie Goonesekera
UK

Biodata

Shevanthie Goonesekera is based in London where she works as a Specialist Adviser in the field of Social Welfare and travels frequently to Sri Lanka. Shevanthie has a great passion for history and architecture and has studied Classical Architecture at Chelsea College of Art and Design and City University, and on Art and Architecture of the Indian Sub Continent at the Institute of Indian Culture.  Inspired by the beautiful building at Mount Lavinia, she has worked meticulously in writing her first book, Mount Lavinia, the Governor’s Palace. Her five years of intensive research has taken her around Britain and Sri Lanka where she has gained access to an extensive diversity of resources, concluding in the definitive work on Mount Lavinia covering 200 years of this building.

Shevanthie has travelled extensively and has a deep love of Sri Lanka appreciating the history, art and culture, with a special interest in old colonial buildings. She is currently working on a project for the Galle Face Hotel and is researching into the extraordinary contribution and skills of the artistic community who ‘lived’ at the Hotel.
shevanthie@kandy.fsnet.co.uk

 

Mahdi Hussain

 
Abstracts

The Mystery of Count de Mauny

Talvande Count de Mauny (1866-1941) was a Frenchman who claimed to be of aristocratic descent. He first came to Sri Lanka in 1912 and was captivated by the lush beauty of the island, especially the Southern fishing village of Weligama.

Disenchanted with life in Europe, he made his home on a rocky island in Weligama Bay, separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of sea, which he called  "Taprobane". Here he built his dream house, landscaping the gardens in tune with the surrounding rocky terrain. Its architectural concept and design were the result of his own deep aesthetic response to this unique environment and around the house he laid out a garden which resembled a lush tropical paradise. It was the beginning of a career as a gardener and a landscape designer. In his book The Gardens of Taprobane (1937) he describes his first encounter; "shall I ever forget that morning in September when, quite by chance I first saw Weligama Bay, and in the centre of it the red granite rock.”

Inspired by his own experience and the craftsmanship of ancient Sri Lanka de Mauny also designed and making his own furniture. Using the skills of the people of the area he created his own unique designs of inlaid woodwork marquetry, which are now amongst the most precious items of colonial furniture on the island.

How did this mysterious Frenchman come by his title?  How did he live?  How did he come to Ceylon?  How did he become the owner of the island “Taprobane”? How did he become a landscape designer and how he became a furniture designer?  These are some of the questions Mahdi Hussein asks.
 

Mahdi Hussain
Sri Lanka

Biodata

Mahdi Hussain had his schooling at Royal College, and went on to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. Then he became a barrister at The Inner Temple.  He returned to Ceylon and practised law, joined the Attorney General’s Department and later the Judicial Service.  He returned to practise law and served as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Council from 1986 to 1991.  He now leads a retired life. 
mahdih88@gmail.com

 

Alexandra Michaela Mohr & Luzia Antonia Pamela Hardy
(A PowerPoint Presented by Deshika Van Haght)

 
Abstracts

Europe in the Tropics. The Furniture of the Count de Mauny in Ceylon; Colombo and Kandy

During their internship in Sri Lanka, Alexandra and Luzia became interested in the French Count de Mauny, his life and works in Ceylon.  They started tracking down collections and photographing the furniture, which he had made. They have created here a short PowerPoint presentation to give an idea of the variety and depth of design of the furniture that was produced by the Weligama Local Industries from the year 1925 onwards.  The presentation also includes a short abstract of his ideas and thoughts. 

 

Alexandra Mohr and Luzia Hardy
Germany

Biodata

Alexandra Mohr and Lucia Hardy lived and worked here in Sri Lanka as interns with the Lanka Decorative Arts Society under the tutelage of Ayesha Abdur-Rahman. This was a four-week internship from March - April 2011.
Alexandra Michaela Mohr lives in Munich, Germany. After her general qualification for university entrance she started to study Art and Pedagogy (BA) and also Art, Music and Theatre (BA) at the Ludwig- Maximilians-University. At the moment she is doing an internship at a gallery in Munich, the Sammlung Götz.
2am@gmx.de
Luzia Antonia Pamela Hardy lives in Munich, Germany.  She is studying Art, Pedagogy and Art History at the Ludwig Maximillians-University.  She has done an internship with the museum and cultural educationalist, Ursula Quack.
l.hardy@gmx.de

 
 
 
 
© 2010