Decorative Arts in the
Geoffrey Bawa Collection



Virtual Exhibition  |  26 May – 5 June 2020


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Textiles


The history of textiles is tied to the origin stories of Sri Lanka; the legend has it that Queen Kuveni was at a loom when Prince Vijaya found her. While the legend itself may be dubious, there is less uncertainty concerning the traditions of woven textiles in the island. Bawa’s use of textiles is very sensitive to the traditions of Sri Lanka, where apart from textiles being used for dress, they frequently took an architectural role adorning vertical and horizontal surfaces, especially in traditional religious buildings. Bawa used the fabrics of his friends and collaborators including Ena de Silva and Barbara Sansoni in this way; most notably at the Bentota Beach Hotel.






Ena de Silva








Barbara Sansoni




How do I design my hand-woven cloth?


First I make a rectilinear painting of a subject that has stimulated me – fish, a flower, a landscape, the face of a Siamese cat, trees against infinity.

The coloured yarns that will be needed to interpret this in weaving are then carefully hand dyed by our resident dyer. They are then ready at hand to use on the loom, in the same way as a painter uses the most precise artist’s quality oils or water paints.

Once the pattern of the warp thread appropriate to the design has been wound, thread by thread, on to a beam, it is placed on a two-shaft loom. The weft, or building, of the fabric is then supervised by the designers and the coloured composition, built by adjusting the colour interactions of the warp and weft as firmly as a wall or fence is constructed. It is built colour by colour i.e. interwoven colour by colour, as against applying mixed colour on a canvas, or printing a fabric. In this type of art the canvas becomes an integral part of the design. The designer (myself in most cases) works in the same way as an architect designs every space and corner of the building, yet he is not himself the foreman, bricklayer, mason, carpenter or roofer.



If the designer (like the composer of a piece of music that is then published) cannot supervise the weaving of the colour in the fabric directly, then, as has almost always happened with tapestries and carpets, a trained interpreter, chosen by the artist for his/her sensitivity, acts on behalf of the designer. My conductor has been for years Marie Gnanaraj.

Because of the need to bring the weaver pleasure as well as realistic craft wages- after the first two or three original compositions, the remainder of the warp is woven as cloth by the yard for use for tablecloths, curtains or clothing.

I have never, myself, used traditional designs and we employ no traditional weavers. Our weavers are trained by us and most remain in our organization: a kind of rural industry, begun in 1964, based on four villages, chosen at the time by Mother of Good Counsel and now collectively called Barefoot.

 - Barbara Sansoni





Riten Mazumdar


Riten Mazumdar was an Indian textile artist who trained at Rabindranath Tagore-founded university Shanthinikethan, and subsequently in Scandinavia. He returned to India where he produced an extensive collection of textile designs for Fabindia. Bawa’s collection includes an extensive range of home furnishings designed by Mazumdar, including several one-of-a-kind samples that did not become part of the offerings of the store. This bedspread is one of many pieces owned and used by Bawa, all similar in their bold design and restrained use of colour.




© 2020 Geoffrey Bawa Trust. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce, distribute, display or create derivative works of any of the text, images or other content appearing on this website, nor may you use any of the trademarks, without written permission from the Geoffrey Bawa Trust.

Photographs by Luka Alagiyawanna
In-situ Exhibition Photographs by Ruvin de Silva


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Geoffrey Bawa Trust
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Bagatelle Road,
Colombo 03, Sri Lanka
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Lunuganga Estate
Dedduwa, Bentota,  Sri Lanka
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© 2020 Geoffrey Bawa Trust. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce, distribute, display or create derivative works of any of the text, images or other content appearing on this website, nor may you use any of the trademarks, without written permission from the Geoffrey Bawa Trust.