Upon entering Art Alive Gallery, a volley of brilliantly colored canvasses hit your vision. Bright and intense, highly stylized depictions of flora and fauna make up these large oil works of Sri Lankan artist, Senaka Senanayake.
Senanayake has been working for the last ten years to create awareness about the depleted rainforests of Sri Lanka. This present series is part of that endeavor, and seeks to create consciousness of what is being lost – by painting vivid imagery from nature. Each of the paintings’ titles referred to nature’s incandescence (Such as “Garden Song,” and “Harmony”), and uniformly depicted extreme close-ups of palm leaves, iridescent flowers, bright butterflies, and other such tropical plants and animals, all bathed in the dewy hues of an autumnal sun. His visual vocabulary draws influence form the Buddhist murals of Sri Lanka, and the parallels between Senanayake’s works and those especially from the Gotami Vihara are unquestionably clear. The few paintings that deviated from vibrant natural subjects featured Buddhist monks as they went about their daily lives of prayer and meditation.
The painter was hailed as a child prodigy and held his first solo international exhibition at the age of ten. As one of Sri Lanka’s major internationally acclaimed artists along with Georges Keyt, Senanayake has done a great deal to locate Sri Lanka within the global art discourse. But the noble cause and staggering list of shows notwithstanding, it would have been a treat for the intellect if what met the eyes wasn’t put forth in such simplistic terms. Seneka seems to believe that a non-artistic crowd will respond more readily to a simply worded, or in this case, painted message. However, much to our smug detriment, we often fail to realize that even the average ‘outsider’ to the art world is smarter than we take them to be. Unfortunately, it is this chasm between intent and understanding that the message is often lost.
-- Andre B.
(Images, from top to bottom: Senaka Senanayake, Garden Song, Senaka Senanayake, In the Footsteps of Buddha, Senaka Senanayake, Tranquil Embrace of the Rain Forest. All images of Art Alive Gallery and the artist.)