The Power Of Sri Lankan Art (Book)

Jaguar by Prageeth Manohansa

The square book is full of pictures, most of them pretty, some amazing. The focus, however, is on the artist. Each ‘chapter’ of two or three pages is devoted to a particular artist and their work. Thus when you see a picture you like you’ll get a brief title, but the bulk of the text is about the artist, not the featured art. Sometimes the text will reference awesome stuff (I read something about ninjas) which isn’t featured. You have to organize a book in some way, so there will always be gaps like this, not to mention the artists that weren’t featured.

That said, the book is long and comprehensive. It covers 52 artists over 70 years in good depth. Honestly, however, I think the sections would have been more interesting as interviews. As mentioned, the prose can run on and on, making somewhat idiosyncratic sense. The conversational quotes from the artists are the best part. Like this paraphrase from Prageeth Manohansa – “As today the art scene in Sri Lanka is like an elitist Cosa Nostra, a rich bourgeois Colombo coven, gobbling the spoils having formed their own cerebrally Machiavellian internal power structures through institutions like art universities and galleries’. Note that I’m grabbing the quotes that interest me (usually critical), which aren’t necessarily representative of the book.

If you’re skimming, it’s nice, a lot of the work is excellent to just glance through and some of the descriptions (especially of performance art) are interesting. If you go too deep, however, the reading is a bit tough, which I’ll get into.