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Old 08-09-14, 12:11 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Looking at the world of Nalini Jayasuriya

Pictures at an Exhibition
Looking at the world of Nalini Jayasuriya

by John W. Cook

Pic by U.K. Abeyratna http://www.island.lk/2004/12/05/leisure3.html

The exhibition of paintings by Nalini Jayasuriya contains new and old works representing a rich and varied career. There are several things about this exhibition that makes it so remarkable.

First the fine consistency of the style throughout the various periods represented by the works should be carefully noted. These works all have a recognizable storytelling content demanding interpretation. And immediately the artist transports us to a realm of the imagination where the story receives her unique interpretation. Her works lead us into a spiritual plane where the story is maintained, and the reference lingers as imagery suggestive of meaning deeply rooted in, and beyond the stories. These paintings also open us up aesthetically to contemplation. Or, to put it another way, there is a mystical dimension that is aesthetically and formally achieved, while the subject matter keeps its integrity, its recognisability.

Second there is a broad ecumenism to her work. Jayasuriya was born in Sri Lanka where Buddhism dominates the cultural-religious life. She is herself a Christian, and has been one all her life, but this exhibition of paintings shows how these two religious cultures (Buddhism and Christianity) remain full intact in her work. For instance a leading image in the exhibition is the painting entitles ‘Christ Mandala’. In the painting the Christ figure reminds us of one of the Buddha in a sitting posture. However it is the Christ attended by the apostles and the images of the Evangelists. Although he appears in a field of colour, and with a hand holding what appears to be an orb or a sphere of light, he is the reigning Lord referring formally to the medieval Christian sculptural composition of the Christ mandorla that occupies the tympana of so many cathedral portals. Also present in this exhibition is an Islamic motif. These multiple references to other religious traditions appear throughout her works and show an enriched sense of coordination and integration of themes.

Third there are surprises in this exhibition beyond the suggestions above. I have in mind, first, the despondent figures that are more monochromatic in presentation and indicate a sense of hiddenness within the composition. I refer especially to the figure of Simon Peter. This dark painting indicates in posture and colour that we are looking at remorse in the extreme. The quality of the viewers’ response is dependent on how much they internalise what is signalled by the work. While there is a lack of facial expression (one does not see the face at all), there is about the figure, in colour and form, a message of human regret, deep regret and contrition.

Finally this exhibition can be seen on a superficial level as a set of naive, two-dimensional illustrations. However, with careful looking, there is much more at stake. With careful looking, and contemplation this exhibition can, and does lead to deep inspiration.

Paintings of Nalini Jayasuriya For Sale


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Old 08-09-14, 12:53 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Christian art in Asia: from breaking bread to fish and rice

Christian art in Asia: from breaking bread to fish and rice
By Richard M. Harley,
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor June 3, 1982

Cambridge, Mass. — One day, next to Renaissance and Reformation greats like da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt, you may well find names with a decidedly Asian ring--names like Sadao Watanabe, Kim Yong Gil, Nalini Jayasuriya, and Bagong Kussudirdja.

At least that's how the future of Christian art looks to one visiting professor at Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions, Masao Takenaka. Asia, he says, is generating an artistic rebirth that could well rival the West's as a century-shaker.

At this early stage, he and the art historians are not taking the comparison too far. But they're certainly having a hard time cooling their anticipation. Even Europe's greats were once relative unknowns, struggling to rouse an awakening age to a clearer understanding of itself, reaching deep into the treasures of Christian symbolism to do it. That's precisely what the burgeoning Asian Christian art movement is all about.
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In the last decade Christian artists' associations have suddenly jelled in Korea, Japan, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, and New Zealand. Each is garnering publicity through exhibitions. Christian magazines that once relied solely on illustrations done by the Western masters now display the works of native sons. Some 300 major artists from the full spectrum of Christian denominations have also formed an Asia-wide network of mutual support, known as the Asian Christian Art Association.
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The genesis of this Asian rebirth actually goes back decades. But it developed almost totally unnoticed--until, that is, cultural spelunkers like Professor Takenaka got wind that something was up.

He teaches social sciences at Kyoto's Doshisha University, and has a doctorate from Yale in Christian social ethics. Takenaka was raised in an artistically inclined Christian family, but the nuclear blast that devastated Hiroshima drove him into more serious biblical reflection. The only artistic depictions of scriptural stories he had seen in Japan had come out of the European Renaissance. And when writing his book ''Reconciliation and Renewal in Japan'' in the 1950s, he lamented how little indigenous Christian art there was in Japan.

He was wrong.

In later researches, Takenaka turned up dozens of Christian artists, most of them working in quiet isolation from the broader Buddhist society. It became for him something of a pastoral duty to keep in touch with the artists and their exhibitions. In a few years, he had catalyzed a network of Japanese Christian artists and co-founded a monthly magazine, Image: Christ and Art in Asia.

The genius of the new Renaissance, like the old, lies in its exploring the biblical tradition for insight into societies embroiled in change. Compared with the task of the Asians, da Vinci and Michelangelo may have had it easy. They were at least painting for cultures nurtured in the biblical tradition.

But not the Asians. In a region where even a basic Christian symbol like bread is uncommon (if not totally unknown) to rice-eating commoners, how do you portray a scene like the Last Supper in which bread plays the quintessential role?

Browsers at a recent Asian Christian art exhibit at Harvard got a taste of how Japanese painter Sadao Watanabe handles the problem. Watanabe's trademark is a kind of silk-screen printing on crinkly rice paper. In his rendition of the Last Supper one instantly recognizes the disciples seated with Jesus over the common meal. Like da Vinci, he pictures them seated at a large table, not reclining on couches in the manner of first-century Palestine. But at center table, the bread is missing. Instead, Watanabe substitutes the Japanese equivalent of the Western staff of life--fish and rice.

Is something getting lost in the translation? For the exhibit organizers, this sort of translation is crucial if text is to meet context. It's a way for the scriptural tradition to speak meaningfully to, and about, Asian life.

Takenaka has many examples of this in his personal art collection. Here are the works of Korean painter Kim Yong Gil, for instance. The three wise men at Jesus' nativity have long been portrayed as Eurasians, usually Persian magi in Persian dress. In Kim's version, they have Korean features, are kneeling Korean-style in traditional Korean robes, and wearing straight-brimmed Korean hats that ride high on the head and tie under the chin. (Numerous artists of the Renaissance did the same thing, cloaking the magi with painstaking accuracy in the dress of 15th- and 16th-century Europe.)

Or take the painting ''Jesus the Master,'' by Nalini Jayasuriya, a Sri Lankan painter. She has the Christ figure sitting cross-legged in the traditional lotus position of Eastern religious holy men, holding the traditional white circle of truth.

Indonesia's Arief Darsons depicts Noah's Ark as a black Javanese longboat with friendly stylized dragon heads at prow and stern, ornate orange designs on the sides, and oarsmen lining the length of the ship.

For all their adaptation of traditional Christian metaphor, however, the Asians seem determined to keep their enterprise well within the harness of the biblical themes. That discipline is making demands on even the most long-held traditions of Asian art. In the process, the ancient artistic media seem to be going through a rebirth of their own.

One sees this trend in the examples of ''Christian flower-arranging'' by Japanese artist Takao Tanaka. One of his best-known is centered on Easter lilies, a symbol of resurrection. White lilies rise from a base of feathery scarlet palm leaves, cupped on right and left by upstretched white rice stalks that converge upon flame-orange plumes which rise above the lily blossoms. The theme is the Holy Spirit. Artist Tanaka calls it simply ''Pentecost.''

In such interplay of Asian art media with Christian themes and imagery, rhythm after aesthetic rhythm has been set in motion, texts adapting to contexts. Age-old artistic media have yielded to the demands of biblical texts.
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Old 08-09-14, 12:58 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Christian art in Asia: from breaking bread to fish and rice

To the casual observer, the artists and their works express universal biblical themes, rather than illustrated religious dogma. Ask the artists about their works and you are likely to find tales of Asian Christian encounter.

Take, for instance, the ''Conversion of Saul,'' by Kim Yong Gil, who accompanied his works to the Harvard exhibit. As a painter, Kim does not aspire to the dazzlingly detailed anatomical realism of the Italian masters, though he is not incapable of it. He moves in a world of geometrical form, monumental idealized human figures portrayed with sharply drawn angles and straight lines. Golden hues seem to glint off the edges of forms painted in deep azure blues, maroons, and browns, like the edges of a dark bronze statue that have been shined into bright gold by the touch of passers-by. Unlike the oils of Western works that fade with time, Kim has invented a way to make his colors nearly immortal. He soaks his rice paper canvases dozens of times in solutions of pigment, vinegar, and glue.

In the ''Conversion of Saul,'' the about-to-be-apostle Paul kneels, face upturned as if bathing in the torrents of light that pour down from above.

''When I was little and the Japanese had occupied Korea, my family escaped to China,'' Kim explained to visitors as they peered into the painting.

''Years later, when we came back to South Korea we were very, very poor. I was extremely weak and sickly. The doctor said I should go to the seacoast for rest, that I had only a year or so to live. . . . I remember how hard I prayed--just like Saul appears in this painting at his conversion. And ever since I have been strong and healthy, as you can see. That's why I began religious painting: to offer my talent for God.''

His painting ''Seven Elders''--a tall, crosslike form emerging from serene Inca-looking faces set side by side along the bottom of the canvas--looks like a sculpture of vertical and horizontal lines carved in layers of wood. It, too, tells a tale. Disturbed by struggles and bickering among the various church leaders in Korea, Kim had vision that they would be unified through the cross, the symbol that seems to bond the elders together in one.

More than one minister viewing the piece said they wished it could be used as a model for the facade of their churches.

In the overall spectrum of Asian Christian art, Kim's work seems to be toward the more personalistic biblical encounter. Other artists are grappling more with the tempestuous historical forces in the Asian scene--the struggle to bring traditional cultures into the age of high tech; the process of weaning from a clinging colonial past; tyrannical governments; pressures of mass poverty, overpopulation, and hunger; a consciousness of the sobering implications of life in the nuclear age; an awareness that comes from living in a region that has witnessed the only atomic bombs ever dropped.

Taking on such forces, the Asian brush can sometimes bite. The drear existence of crowded, polluted Philippine factories draws stinging comment from Filipino painter Alberto Jimenez, who shows listless workers streaming en masse from factories built of wooden crosses.

The affronts to religious faith posed by high-rise, technological civilization get an almost Salvador Dali-like comment from Shin Young Hum, another South Korean. In his ''Formation of Faith,'' the face of a huge Christ figure, gazing like a Greek marble statue into a pastel sky, provides an apocalyptic backdrop. In front, robed religious figures walk through the byways of a confused conglomeration of urban structures washed in pastel ferrous greens , yellow, and pink. A praying figure appears to be asking where civilization is going; the robed figures march humbly toward the future.

Then there is the lighter side. The relevance of religious faith today is celebrated in the playful calligraphy of Chinese artist Choi Kai-Yan. His work ''Rei'' (''Spirit'') repeats the Chinese character for ''Spirit'' in a three-tiered arrangement, each ''tier'' comprising five Spirit-characters. To convey the chameleonlike adaptability of Spirit to the many aspects of modern life, Mr. Choi builds into the structure of each character a symbol of modern life--computer tapes, an electric light bulb, a curving multi-laned highway, and so on.

Professor Takenaka is certain that the full impact of the Asian art explosion hasn't begun to be charted. There are signs that its intensity will be further fueled by the surging biblical interest among Asians at large.

Perhaps most telling, he says, is the way Christian imagery is creeping into the work of artists totally outside the Christian tradition.

Some months back Takenaka visited the renowned Indian artist K. C. S. Panikar , principal of the Institute of Arts and Craft in Madras. The Indian brought out one of his own sculptures portraying the Christ figure in his compassion for the plight of lepers.

''Of course, in India, Panikar explained to me, the leper is classified outcast, untouchable; they live in the caves outside the villages. Even the closest family member would not touch you if you were a leper. But Jesus visited those who were lepers. He touched them.''

Takenaka asked Panikar if he was a Christian. When he replied that he was Hindu, Takenaka asked him why he had used the Christian model. '' 'Jesus of Nazareth,' '' Takenaka related Panikar as replying, '' 'identified with the people who are suffering. I can think of those here in India who go to great lengths to enhance their kindness, praying, fasting. But not to the extent of Jesus. He reached even the total outcast. I admire that. That admiration had to find its way into my art.' ''
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Old 08-09-14, 01:25 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Nalini Jayasuriya Biography

Nalini Jayasuriya



While growing up in Sri lanka, Nalini Jayasuriya never took an art course, and still says today that she cannot draw. As an eight-year old assigned to draw a still life in drawing class, she ended up erasing a hole in her paper, and was told to take her books and leave. She spent the rest of the year's drawing class time in the library. Her real talent was music; from about age four, she could play almost any piece of music that she heard. At about age fifteen, she wrote a number of poems that were published, and later wrote a secondary-level reader consisting of letters from her cat, Ingy.

The direction of Nalini's life changed when, as a young ESL teacher, she was offered an unsolicited British Council grant to study in England. She sees this as one of the many miracles in her life. For three years in London, she experienced a whole new world. She added evening classes to her schedule, including coursework in stained glass and enamel on metal, thinking that she would never again have such an opportunity. Later, she received seven scholarships and fellowships, (none of which she applied for) and she went on to live in thirty-six different countries.

Nalini has taught art history and music history in various universities in seven different countries, including Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, an alma mater. She sees herself essentially as a historian, and she gives emphasis to the art and architecture of four great religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, in that historical order. Vibrant color, peaceful or traumatic themes, and circular compositions are often expressed in her countless penetrating, soul-stirring and meditative works.

At least three books featuring her artwork as well as her writings have been published, one of them in Japanese. She has exhibited internationally for many years, and has had a long and distinguished career, earning many honors.

More information on Nalini can be found in the OMSC monograph entitled, "A Time for My Singing - Witness of a Life" published in 2004 in a limited, signed and numbered edition of 500 copies. In addition to reproductions of many of her paintings, the book includes a sixty page memoir entitled "Reminiscences" as well as a critical essay by John W. Cook, Professor Emeritus and Lecturer in Religion and the Arts at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University Divinity School. It is available at the OMSC bookstore.

For additional critical appreciation and art reproductions, please see the catalog of the exhibition, "The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today," available from Mobia store.

Nalini Jayasuriya Portfolio-

Nalini Marcia Jayasuriya

TOP: "Christ Mandala"
BOTTOM: L-R "Evensong","Fugue", "Gethsemane"
*Click on images to enlarge

Sri Lankan artist, Nalini Jayasuriya was raised by Anglican parents and has been a Christian since she was seven years-old. She has become a teacher, broadcaster, writer, musician, art director, painter, sculptor and potter. Her numerous talents have enabled her to travel around the world exhibiting and lecturing in top universities including Tokyo University, Tokyo Japan and in Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

She was also an artist in residence in Christian universities in Japan, Thailand, Philippines and the Overseas Ministries Studies Center (OMSC) in New Haven, Connecticut. Her book "A Time for my Singing" was published as a product of her residency in OMSC. Other publications by Nalini are "Cargo", a book of poems, "Letters from Ingy" and "When Jesus was Born". She is the recipient of Sri Lanka's highest honor for the arts, awarded by the former prime minister herself, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

Nalini prefers to use acrylic or watercolor on cotton for her paintings. Jonathan Bonk describes her work- "The pristine simplicity and flowing congruity of her art resonates with our own sometimes sadly latent spirituality- fostering within us a wistful longing for that which is deepest and best in our nature."

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