Saskia Fernando Gallery is pleased to present the new exhibition of work by Chandraguptha Thenuwara. Chandraguptha Thenuwara is one of Sri Lanka's leading contemporary artists, whose annual exhibitions have become a survey of the political history of the country since 1997. His works are included in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery Australia, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Japan, John Moore's University Art Collection Liverpool and Fine Arts Museum of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, Russia and were most recently selected for the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA.
Since 1997, I have held annual exhibitions from the 23rd of July to mark the 'un- commemorative' pogrom against the Tamil people of July 1983. My exhibition each year also focusses on contemporary political issues. Most of my works relate to 'ísms' which I introduced as Barrelism (1997-2006), Neo Barrelism (2007-2009), and Post- Barrelism (2009). While the ethnic war ended in 2009, I find it difficult to contend that the country had moved to a period of post-Barrelism since there are many unresolved issues stemming from the long years of protracted conflict and continuing to manifest in day to day political, social and cultural practice.
I introduced a Human Rights Arts festival to Sri Lanka in 2017 and have organized two editions thus far to mark International Human Rights Day. Human Rights violations have become an issue of day to day life in Sri Lankan since the 1971 youth insurrection, the ethnic conflict against the Tamils and the current ethno-nationalist violence against the Muslims.
As a politically and socially conscious artist, I produce work to raise awareness on rights, justice, the rule of law, democracy, freedom of expression and the right to life. At times when the political regime is authoritarian my political activism is restricted. It is a kind of temporary self-censorship because of the unpredictability of the regime. However, the struggle to protect democracy and justice continues to be valid and must go on and is reflected in my practice and public exhibitions.
Press release courtesy Saskia Fernando Gallery.