OMNIBUS, Rahju’s Statement on contemporary Sri Lankan Art
I was born between two worlds. There are moments when this has it's drawbacks, but the positive side far outweighs the negative. The main advantage I cherish is that when you come from two cultures, you become free of both. You don't belong anywhere. You don't identify with either and you see clearly the restrictions and burdens that are heaped upon the shoulders of those that do.
This man-made notion of a nation, something that doesn't really exist, is one that can be maintained only by the brute forces of politix and economix, turning, in effect, each country into a large scale mass prison, within which it's inmates, it's proud patriotic citizens, can be dominated, manipulated and exploited. Everything in our life takes place within this prison. Do we really want to drag art into this filthy field as well? Not me. And why should we, when creative expression is capable
of cutting across all man-made boundaries and borders, then let's cut across. More and more I find it difficult to identify with that nasty three-letter word 'art', let alone 'Sri Lankan art' , and even to consider oneself an 'artist' seems now so unimportant compared to the magic of being able to live, breathe and create. Freedom is what it is all about. Freedom to discover oneself and fulfill oneself. For someone who simply wishes to live in this god-given universe in accord with his dharma, all these identifications with mind concepts, instead of sensually experienced hands-on reality, are all constrictions and a bore, on top of all the other obstacles that a psychotic competitive-consumer-commercial culture throws in the way of the creative man and the communal-give and take cyclic-culture that he longs to live in.
and so it becomes essential to recognize and defend one's spirit from all limiting concepts and illusions, if one is to have the slightest chance of hearing one's own voice within. What I mean is that first comes the activity, the urge, the process, in itself. Then comes the labeling and squabbling. If it has to be so, then so be it just keep me out of it...
but let's try not to put the concern or the concept ahead of the act, or we may simply be making 'art' in order to support or illustrate a certain agenda. And that's not art at all, it's more like propaganda. Or so it seems to me. As for those who really wish to identify with "Sri Lankan Art", maybe we should forget about thinking we can ever assimilate and make our own all these second hand ideas
of the Western development of modern art, and just get down to painting our own land and out of ourselves for the next 200 years or so, and then see what comes out of it, rather than all that blah,blah and blah… That reminds me of when Mulla Nasruddin went to see his friend the doctor,
and the doctor said, "Mulla, there is no doubt about it. If you wish to get well you will have to cut your sex life by half!" "O.k," said Mulla, "which half?....thinking about it or talking about it?"
ON MY WORK
"The paintings I do don't really have any message or meaning. There is no specific content to convey. There is instead a kind of purpose. What needs to be said is not something said in words or thoughts, but experienced in silence... Silence is a shared experience. In the very experience of it you recognize it as having a universal nature...The experience is not an individual one. It is vaster than the individual, but still available to each individual. Something that stretches beyond one's own boundaries, but which one remains intrinsically part of. When silence is shared it is no longer communication but communion. It is not one point talking to another point, but a sharing of the very ground that these points are existing upon... The purpose of the paintings is to invoke this silence. That is the only message inherent in any form of meditative art. To enter the center, rather than engage oneself in the periphery of thinking and feeling. In entering the silence of the observed object one inevitably enters the silence within oneself.... Meditative art is an invitation to enter this awareness...The message is not a message about something. The message is a taste of that actual something." This is an excerpt from my '95 show, but I can repeat it since nothing has changed in this respect, nor will it. The challenge remains the same; What is my true self, what do I really want to do, how to move the hand with authenticity that's beyond the self-conscious mind. How to enter into oneself, how to renounce distraction and influence of the 'other'. In short the usual quest of the spirit discovering and communing with itself, and creating out of that communion, beyond the conditions and assumptions that surround oneself, or are continuously being imposed upon and covering the original self . To me this is a spiritual, rebellious and individual journey of taking one's fulfillment into one's own hands. Of being possessed and surrendered. Surrendered to the river of creativity that we call Saraswati.