Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Layer upon layer; canvas of places visited
In his first- ever exhibition in Sri Lanka, artist Nalin Indrasena brings the essence of historic places around the world as seen through Abstract Expressionist lenses, depicted through delicate yet multitudinal layers of oil and cold wax mixed media.
Exhibited at Barefoot Gallery from October 3 to 27 (today), his series titled ‘Luminous Emptiness’ portrays the unique landscapes of places that Indrasena has visited during his tenure at the United Nations. Now retired in Geneva, Switzerland, he dedicates his time to his artistic endeavours.
Through his artistic journey, Indrasena has never been drawn to painting based on subject matter. Rather, his intent is to create abstractions that invoke curiosity and mystery through his surface spaces with his use of colour and form, while still bringing out a sense of fragility within it.
His creative process is an interesting one. Indrasena never has a preconceived notion when he begins painting. Rather, he keeps layering first to build something. Five to six layers later, he would get a form somewhere. Then comes the editing process.
The process would take weeks and sometimes months to complete, because he would do a painting and come back to it. Then, if he found something wrong with it, he’d layer it. “When you have multiple layers you can actually dig into it, to show the history of it, so it’s more of an archaeological approach,” he says.
The medium he uses for the paintings is called Cold Wax and Oil, which is a fairly new, little known medium that he hopes to introduce to Sri Lanka. While working in the UN, he got the chance to attend a workshop held by two American artists. The week long workshop amazed him on the things you could do with cold wax, as opposed to oil on its own, and soon he was hooked.
With the ‘Luminous Emptiness’ series, Indrasena brings out this depth and fragility by using this medium together with various forms of pigments and then reducing the surface of the painting to bring out previous and hidden layers.
Through this, he depicts the singular and repeated events, objects, or conditions in the places he has visited as it was when he saw them, from the vast horizons of Iraq to the magnanimity of Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, to the parched landscapes of Jordan, and the breathtaking mountains of Switzerland to name a few.
“What remains important in my artwork is its physicality, ownership, intuition which reflect a personal story,” he says, adding that while creating gestural works in abstract form, his aim is to “crystallize the essence of places that I have been to around the world and unique objects which I found in such places.”
Many of the places depicted have been fully or partially destroyed, due to factors like natural erosion, man-made destruction, wars, etc. What he has captured is simply what he saw at the time of his visit, and the essence of the place that he remembers. “It’s all about historical places, events, the richness of the culture and people,” which depict the luminosity of the places he has visited. “The emptiness in the form is the presence or absence of these historical places in the present world today.”
The exhibition is on today at the Barefoot Gallery.