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Mullegama Art Centre Children’s Art Project for CAB 2016

Creative expression is often inspired by an artist’s surroundings and their engagement and understanding of the spaces they inhabit. In an age where, increasingly, many aspects of life are becoming concentrated within the confines of indoors and digital space, the art of understanding context through conversation, exploration, and observationcan often be sidelined.

In hopes of re-igniting the love of exploration and strengthening important interpersonal skills of the young, 2010 Sovereign Prize Winner Pala Pothupitiya, 2016 Sovereign Prize Finalist, Pradeep Thalwatte and coordinator Lalith Manage, with a collaboration of local artists, will lead an exciting, experiential 6 day workshop for 21 children. Participants hailing from the Mullegama Art Centre, Sri Palee Campus (University of Colombo), and from the communities within Slave Island, will explore popular and industrious, everyday walking routes as guided by the inhabitants of Slave Island. The inspiration gathered from observations and first- hand experience of the topography, industries, and community ties will be expressed in artistic form through paintings and sculptures –utilizing sketching, digital documentation, and scrap material gathered by students during these walks.

The unique sculptures and artwork depicting aspects of life in Slave Island as seen through a youngster’s eye, will be displayed throughout Slave Island during the Colombo Art Biennale.

This project is funded by the Sovereign Art Foundation, Hong Kong, which aims to provide recognition to the growing contemporary art talent in Asia, and bring proven benefits of art therapy to marginalized children.

Photo Credits: Mullegama Art Centre

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Alnoor Mitha’s notes on CAB 2016

SOUTH ASIAN HUB CAB 2016: ‘Conceiving Space’ –

There is a proliferation of Biennials in the globe. It appears that each and every city in the globe wants to actively transform its artistic discourse by presenting contemporary art in an urban setting. In many ways this boom of creativity encourages a new cultural dialogue. It benefits the local artistic scene as well as an international audience who may not have visited the place for the first time. So where does the biennial phenomenon arise from? The word itself is Italian and means an event that happens every two years.

However, if we interrogate this further we find that the first large scale international exhibitions were at the futuristic London structure, Crystal Palace. During ‘19th century World fairs provided a visual crystallization of colonial culture and were, at the same time, forerunners of contemporary theme parks.”[1] The Venice Biennial which is probably the worlds most attended biennial started in 1895. The rest of the world followed steadfast.

In many ways the globe and its cultural Art fairs are almost like theme parks or a new form of cultural tourism. The artistic global community is able to visit these new events, be it biennials, triennials or Art Fairs that somehow feed the community of collectors, and wider audiences with multiple snapshots of contemporary art.

More recently, we have the South Asian focus on the biennial culture. South Asia is an interesting constituency, rich with history and international trade routes. Take for example the Kochi Muziris Biennial, India, Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh, Lahore/Karachi Biennial Pakistan, Kathmandu Triennial, Nepal and the Colombo Art Biennial, Sri Lanka. These Biennials have created a new kind of aesthetics to consume art in a very different way. My particular focus here is curating the Colombo Art Biennial, (CAB).

As the lead curator for the CAB, my main aim as a researcher and curator is to establish a framework of curating a significant number of local artists from the wider regions of Sri Lanka.

alnoor Mitha

Conceiving space logo-05

The programme will present the works of approximately 25 local artists and 25 International artists exhibited at several different locations around Colombo including Colombo 7 and Colombo 3; Fort and Slave Island, from December 2nd to December 20th 2016.

The local artist segment includes participants from Jaffna, Puttlam, Batticaloa, Gampaha and Colombo and will focus on young emerging artists of Sri Lanka who will make up 50% of local artist participation at CAB2016. Local and international artist’s participants will display a variety of artistic disciplines, including installation, sculpture, sound and performance art.

The conceptual framing for CAB 2016 envisages a consideration of the following intentions and strategies in its artistic direction and curatorial vision: Engage with the theme of ‘Conceiving Space’ – interrogating space as ‘public’ and private; space as protest and contestation; space as tangible and imagined; space as community, memory and legacy; space as architectural, performative, temporal, spiritual and rhythmic; space as liminal and ritualistic; space as embodied and meditative; space as virtual and transcendent.

‘Conceiving Space’ seeks to strengthen the established contemporary Sri Lankan art space and context, and engage with creating artistic associations in the Asian Region (however broadly we define the region), while being conversant in international contemporary art discourses. ‘Conceiving Space’ demands an expansion in the mediums of artistic expression that will be engaged with so that, for example, performance art and music composition and sound (which existed as segments in previous biennales) could contribute as a provocation about what constitutes art for artists and art communities.

I am particularly interested in curating the first “South Asian Hub” in Colombo. In other words, there will be a significant number of South Asian artists whose ancestry is from South Asia but now live in either Europe or USA. The idea of focusing on the hub will create a unique platform that will investigate the current quality of artists from South Asia living internationally. So why South Asian hub? As I have highlighted earlier South Asia is a fascinating geographical location, however the regions haven’t had a friendly or neighborly relationship. There have been political and religious divisions between the regions, and I don’t really want to go into much detail about the differences. However, I am interested in showcasing the familiar, or shall we say the similarity of cultures not least the similarity of artistic exchanges between artists. Artists from South Asia are making some of the most exciting work in the world today. I wanted curate a space, that not only engaged with outstanding talented international artists but also a space that supported the local Sri Lankan artistic sector. I believe that the emerging artists from Sri Lanka will be interconnected with international artists. I have also established a mentoring scheme for local artists where the older generation of artists support the younger ones in a collaborative process.

The CAB 2016 has various creative strands including the architectural intervention to be launching for the first time. The programme which will run from the 3rd – 11th December will be centered in and around the Slave Island district in Colombo with a strong focus on Community Engagement.

Community Engagement

This nine-day programme will see internationally renowned and award winning architects working as artists with the local community with the support of both international and local students and artists. At the end of the programme the collaborations will be showcased in and around the community area, culminating in a ‘Great Feast’ on the last day bringing together 500 members of the local community will be cooking and joined by artists, architects and visitors.

Some of the highlights of the CAB2016 will include:

The work by local Sri Lankan artists Venuri Perera, Abdul Haliq Aziz, Priyantha Udagedara, and Liz Fernando. The international artists will include Mithu Sen, Pushpamala N., Reena Kallat, Faiza Bhutt, Naiza Khan and Hardeep Phandal these are just a few names to entice everyone to the artistic programme.

(15) (c) black candy 2

Black Candy II by Mithu Sen


Venuri Perera

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

street photography by Abdul Halik Aziz


‘An hour in the Herbal Garden II’ 2015

by Priyantha Udagedara

Studio Assemble

Studio Assemble


Madelon Vriesendorp

Studio Assemble & Madelon Vriesendorp

A collaborative project in the heart of Slave Island Learning from the techniques and tactics of crafts and material traditions of Sri Lanka, Madelon and Assemble will build on the contemporary make-do- and-mend craft culture that thrives in Slave Island in several small and improvised workshops.

These workshops will see Madelon and Assemble working together with residents, mixing local contemporary oral histories and folklore to create a series of small, animate sculptures, which will populate the rooftops and streets of Slave Islands. This collaborative process between the residents of Slave island Madelon and Assemble, will produce work that will be the first permanent public sculptures for both Madelon Vriesendorp and Studio Assemble.

The CAB2016 is an ambitious programme that will invigorate the mind and create a subliminal as well as conceptual space that will lure the audience to visit the multiple sites in Colombo. The CAB is a free event with films, performances and site specific interventions. In short, the public should feel free to attend and collaborate with the series of community engagement programmes.

Alnoor Mitha FRSA, Lead Curator Colombo Art Biennial

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CAB Team visit to Liverpool Biennial

The Colombo Art Biennale, as a member of The New North and South, a three-year programme between a network of three Northern cities and five South Asian biennials (Kochi, Lahore, Karachi and the Dhaka Art Summit), and the British Council were awarded an ‘An Ambition for Excellence’ The Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, Liverpool Biennial, and the Tetley in Leeds, will work with the Lahore, Kochi, Colombo, and Karachi biennials and the Dhaka Art Summit on a series of co-commissioned exhibitions, performances, critical dialogues and professional development activities.

In July 2016, the CAB team visited the Liverpool Biennale for the second conference of the New North South. Representatives from the five South Asian Biennales and from the Art Institutions of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, convened at the Liverpool Biennale for a 4 day conference, the main agenda of which was setting the programme for the three year partnership between the three Northern UK cities and the five South Asia Biennales. The CAB team were also able to visit some of the Liverpool Biennial attractions, including upcoming CAB2016 participant Assemble’s commission for the Liverpool Biennial. http://www.biennial.com/collaborations/granby-workshop

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Annoushka Hempel at INDIA ART FAIR 2016

Annoushka hempel, founding director of Colombo art Biennale was part of the panel discussion about ACCESS AND INTEGRATION IN THE ARTS ACROSS SOUTH ASIA at the India art fair 2016. 

The discussion was moderated by Amit Jain, associate vice president-client relations, Saffron Art.
The Panel included speakers such as Dr Dina Bangdel, associate professor and director, Art History Programme, Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar, Nepal Arts Council, Osman Waheed, chairman, Lahore Biennale Foundation and Sabih Ahmad, senior researcher, Asia Art Archive
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Dhaka Art Summit, Feb 2014

An initiative of the Samdani Art Foundation, Dhaka Art Summit brings together works by over 250 artists from countries including: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Internationally acclaimed figures such as Jitish Kallat, Runa Islam, Shilpa Gupta, Shahzia Sikander, Rashid Rana and Nikhil Chopra presented major projects alongside some of the most exciting emerging names from the region.

Representatives from Tate Modern, The British Museum, Centre Pompidou and Solomon R.Guggenheim museum were among the speakers and jury members in attendance which included: Richard Blurton (Head of South Asian Section of the British Museum’s Asia Department), Caroline Bourgeois (Pinault Collection), Aaron Cezar (Founding Director, The Delfina Foundation), Lauren Cornell (Curator 2015 Triennial, New Museum, New York), Milovan Farronato (Director, Fiorucci Art Trust), Eungie Joo (Curator 12th Sharjah Biennial), Aurélien Lemonier (Curator, Centre Pompidou), Jessica Morgan (The Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, Tate Modern), Sandhini Poddar (Adjunct Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), Beatrix Ruf (Director, Kunsthalle Zurich) and Adam Szymczyk (Artistic Director, Documenta 14) among many others.

Amongst the invited speakers was Annoushka Hempel, founding director of the Colombo Art Biennale, invited to join a discussion panel themed ‘Pioneers of the South Asian Art World’ alongside Shahidul Alam (Director of Drik, Bangladesh), Pooja Sood (Director of Khoj, India) & Riyas Komu (Director of Kochi Biennale, India)

Hempel Galleries was also invited by the Dhaka Art Summit to showcase works by Sri Lankan artists during the summit. Works by Kingsley Gunetillake, Pala Pothupitiye, Anoli Perera, K. Pushpakumara, Jananda Laksiri & Pradeep Thalawatte were exhibited.

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The Reading Room, New Delhi April 2014

The “Reading Room” is a journey of discoveries and experiences, of nostalgia and witness; a space where the many and varied perspectives and practices of the book arts find a place of meeting, dialogue and expression. Book art demands both an aesthetic engagement and critical conceptual inquiry into the work.

Aesthetic engagement with book art requires a paradigm shift to reading a different logic in the book: the logic of the visual, textural and cultural. Traditionally, the book has signified knowledge, and can be considered a visually embedded cultural site because of this history (consider the many times that books have been burnt as acts of symbolic violence). It is a site where many versions of history, senses of identity and narratives (both dominant and counter) converge.

The book in contemporary art, is thus an object completely transformed – not just in its structure, but also in its meaning. Walter Benjamin calls this the “renewal of existence”. This sense of renewal is to be experienced in the work of the exhibiting artists brought together in conversation in the “Reading Room”. The mood is sometimes fantastical and playful, and sometimes evocative and intimate. At its most activist, it stands as a collective resistance to dominant politics and ideologies. And, as the artist, in many ways, works as an interpreter of the book, so will the viewer of the work. The experience of reading is deeply personal, whether approached with anticipation, curiosity, or sometimes even with hesitation. Thus, the “Reading Room” invites the reader of this space to carry with them the memory of this experience in a context created for encounter, discussion, and making meaning.

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Reading Room

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