CAB aims to strengthen the platform and enhance awareness of the strength and talent of Sri Lankan contemporary art and culture both within Sri Lanka and around the globe.
CAB sees itself primarily as a South Asian Art Biennale and indeed a South Asian hub for contemporary arts and culture that not only promotes local artists, but also fosters a strong network within the region, as well further afield. The Colombo Art Biennale supports both established and emerging artists through innovative and relevant programmes and highlights the best of the best contemporary visual arts in its various mediums.
The first edition of CAB “Imagining Peace” was launched in 2009 to encourage peace between and within nations, communities, families and individuals. It was not so much about showcasing Sri Lankan art; but a project with a vision. The aim was to show the world that despite the fact that Sri Lanka was seen as a politically, ethnically polarized society, artists can work together as collectives, a sign of peace in itself. “Imagining Peace”- Imagining that people can work together was indeed the success of the inaugural edition of CAB.
The second edition of CAB 2012, ‘Becoming’, added international participation to the platform. The Directors wished to showcase the very best of Sri Lankan contemporary visual artists alongside regional and international artists. Curators were appointed from Vienna and Bangalore to also provide an outside eye for the selection of Sri Lankan artists and contextualize their works alongside artists from across the world. The CAB 2012, continued to provide a platform for the important role that artists have in society, reflecting and exploring its contemporary concerns. The theme ‘Becoming’ was selected as a natural follow on from the theme of ‘Imagining Peace’. It acknowledged a point of time in the country’s history. “Becoming” is neither about the past nor the future, but about the creative potential of the ever moving and changing present. In addition to the exhibitions, CAB explored the theme through a varied and well attended programme of seminars and workshops.
The third edition of the CAB took place in 2014 and explored the theme of ‘Making History’, a theme that inspired the 50 local and international participating artists to produce something spectacular and memorable as well as conceptually interesting and powerful. As participating Sri Lankan artist Anoli Perera wrote in her concept note, “Our bodies are historically marked, while emotionally ‘present’ with a desire to invent the future. Human beings desire to root themselves to a place and space where identity, communality and belonging matters ……. do we make history or does history makes us what we are today?”
‘Making History’ featured 34 local and 21 international artists selected by a team of curators from Sri Lanka, India and the UK. It attracted over 4000 visitors with a large increase in CAB’s international audience and international press. This was largely due to CAB’s increased international profile, which saw CAB presented at the Dhaka Art Summit in February 2014, and awarded a three-month exhibition at the Brunei Gallery (SOAS) in London, UK, from October to December 2014.
The 4th edition of CAB will open in December 2016, themed and titled ‘Conceiving Space’, will run from 2nd – 20th December, with 60 local and international artists expected to participate. CAB has the great honour of being a recipient of the ‘Ambition for Excellence’ grant for ‘the New North South’ project awarded by the Arts Council England. This will be a collaboration between art museums and institutions of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds and five South Asian Biennales. In the 4th Edition: Conceiving Space, local and international artists will reimagine traditional ideas of ‘space’ in relation to concept, boundaries,and engagement. Focus will be given to Unity and Reconcilation through Conceived Space as well as Community Engagement.
The CAB mission will continue to be honoured and pursued into the future. Extremely positive outcomes have already manifested as a result of its mission. This has been seen in the form of international residencies, Sri Lankan artists being showcased internationally and even a Sri Lankan artist being selected as the winner of the Hong Kong based Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2010.
The CAB directors are fully committed in their continued mission to create platforms to expose the excellence of Sri Lankan Contemporary art through interactive artistic collaborations within the Sri Lankan and international community.