Decorative Arts in the
Geoffrey Bawa Collection
Virtual Exhibition | 26 May – 5 June 2020
As we come in to our tenth week of lockdown due to Covid-19 here in Colombo, we find ourselves repeatedly ruminating on our domestic spaces and our relationship to the objects within. Public gatherings remain unlikely for the immediately foreseeable future, and we felt this is an appropriate time to revisit the installation we held at Lunuganga last year Decorative Arts in the Geoffrey Bawa Collection. Seeing the objects in situ and in relation to each other was a key premise of the show last year; in this iteration we hope that the focus on the image, through Luka Alagiyawanna’s punctilious photographs, can help highlight some of the intrinsic qualities of each object.
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The Decorative Arts as an area of study is a relatively recent concept; emerging from the need to distinguish those objects which are both functional and beautiful as being different from the Fine Arts. In the Western Art tradition, the Fine Arts were defined during the Italian Renaissance as the five disciplines of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Poetry. The History of Art in Sri Lanka, on the other hand, involves far more overlap and merging between these fields until the first waves of colonialism in the 1500s began. The objects in this exhibition claim their place as works of art in the context of Sri Lanka’s many-layered history of art; the Classical Western conception of art exists alongside the ancient traditions.
Understanding the importance of the context and use of an object is a particularly valuable lens for the study of Geoffrey Bawa’s architecture; the placement of every painting and pot is deliberate, and functional. In this way, it draws on the fundamental essence of ancient Sri Lankan art and architecture, highlighting their inseparable entanglement. Turning our attention to the Decorative Arts is also important to understanding the traditions of design in Sri Lanka, which were not based on the master craftsman and single authorship but in collective enterprise. The Decorative Arts is a useful term for us to explore the often un-named, under-represented creators in our midst and to create a space for the further understanding of their work and the objects they produce.
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Photographs by Luka Alagiyawanna
In-situ Exhibition Photographs by Ruvin de Silva