Lassanai (Beautiful)

Much of the work for Lassanai emanates from a recent 3-month stay (2015) in my homeland of Sri Lanka. Under the auspices of an Ontario Arts Council Grant I studied with two mentors who are masters in traditional fine art and craft that is not widely practised anymore. My intention was to study these old forms and revitalize them through a new context of contemporary re-interpretation.

Pattern is a strong leitmotif in this exhibition, delving beyond the purely ornamental. The “Atomizer Collection” a series of 10 works on paper re-interprets a hand grenade, an instrument of destruction as a vintage perfume atomizer, an object of beauty and scent. Each is decorated in a different traditional or ancient floral motif, each title alluding to a piece of Sri Lanka’s history of colonization by the Portugese, Dutch, and British, and its resources that were in many cases exploited. Examples such as “Cinnamon Spice” references the ancient cinnamon trade, leading to a treaty where Sri Lanka had to pay 110,000 lbs. of cinnamon each year to Portugal; “Ivory White” referencing the slaughter of elephants for their ivory; “Blue Belle” the name given to the 400 carat Blue Sapphire found in a Ceylonese paddy field in 1926, and ending in the possession of a British Lord in 1937. Another, the misnamed 500 carat “Star of India” resides in the American Museum of Natural History.

The installation “26” consists of 26 pairs of hand-painted “flip-flop” slippers, the footbed of each pair hand decorated in traditional floral motifs based on those found in Buddhist Temples. Egalitarian and ubiquitous, each pair memorializes one year of the recently ended 26 year Sri Lankan civil war (1983-2009) resulting in about 100,000 deaths and many others put into camps. In their spare, elegant beauty they combine the spiritual with the plebeian, and mounted on a wall, arranged in a path symbolically suggest a step forward into a new era, a brighter future.

Read Artoronto’s Interview with Frances on her Exhibition

Watch my opening on Youtube

Read the ROM’s South Asian Curator’s Blog on their purchase of my works.