Kala Pola 2024 - A beacon of hope and opportunity for artists

Feb 19 2024.

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The eagerly anticipated art fair, the Kala Pola which is a red letter day in the calendar of the artists’ community was held on Sunday at Green Path.  This annual open-air art fair held for the 31st time takes its inspiration from the famous art fairs held around the world. Conceptualised by the George Keyt Foundation, the Kala Pola was launched in 1993 under the watchful eye of the late Sita and Cedric de Silva.

Today the Foundation is helmed by Chairperson Malaka Talwatte who is passionate about promoting Sri Lankan art. Supported by the John Keells Group the Kala Pola serves as a beacon to artists from around Sri Lanka who gather at the art fair to display their creations. For many, this is the only affordable event which they can attend and display and sell their art.
From the moment the Kala Pola opened, art collectors were eyeing the art and purchased whatever took their fancy. The word on the street at Kala Pola is that the sculptors had a good day with many selling their statues and sculptures to hotels and villas and also private art collectors.

Anura Srinath has been an artist since 1979. He had on display a series of paintings depicting his favourite movie characters.
“I like Hollywood films. Some of the older clientele recognize the movie stars but the younger ones don’t. The Kala Pola offers a great platform and I am grateful to the foundation and JKH for facilitating this each year.”

Anne is a lawyer who took to art because she has always been engaged in drawing and painting. Art has been an integral part of her life. “Painting is more stressful than working in law. This is my first time at Kala Pola and I have enjoyed the convivial atmosphere. Previously I have always visited and today it is nice to be here as an artist. I have also enjoyed seeing how people resonate with my art.” 

Guptakumara Soysa- has been an artist since his childhood. He uses acrylic on canvas and paints images of  Asian women. His work is full of colour with definitive lines and has the ability to lift the spirits of the viewer which encourages them to appreciate the beauty of the feminine form.  

Concerned by the increasing number of people who are distancing themselves from each other, artist  Prageeth Ratnayake uses a technique of mosaic to create his work “I create two-dimensional art. Figures Assemble is the title of this body of work. My philosophy is that for whatever reason people are distancing themselves from each other and we are not conscious of that. I want my art to draw people towards you, thereby reducing that distance between people. ”

Indika samarajeewa has been an art teacher at  Devi Balika Vidyalaya for the past 7 years. She has been showing her work at Kala Pola since she graduated.  Her work is titled Colour Moods and offers a landscape of varying moods. Her chosen medium is Acrylic on canvas. The different faces she has created depict the different moods people have during the course of the day. For Indika, the Kala Pola is perfect to not only sell her work but also gain contacts which later translate to private commissions.

Isurini Medhavi from Kottawa was busy painting amidst the hubbub of the Kala Pola. She also works as a draftsperson while indulging in her passion for art. She did a Fine Arts degree at Kelaniya which she puts to good use in doing private commissions. While she paints other styles her chosen medium is temple art. “ I do a lot of research on the internet for inspiration and in my spare time I try to visit temples to see how the traditional artists have created  temple art.” 

It was particularly heartwarming to see a differently abled artist who was bursting with pride while explaining his work. Andreo Rufus is 22 and has Down syndrome. He was there with his mother who is his biggest support. Making his second visit to the Kala Pola as an artist, Andreo explained that he had been painting all his life. He enjoyed art the most while a student at Christ King College, Ja-Ela. He paints almost every day and is inspired by the scenery and events which happen around him. When I asked him what his goal as an artist was he gave me the most dazzling smile I had ever seen and said “ I want to have my own exhibition in a gallery one day.”

It is people like Andreo and the other artists who prove that Kala Pola is a much-needed platform for the community of artists from all walks of life around Sri Lanka. This is a central point for them to show their work to people from all strata of society and also make a livelihood from their artistic talent.

Isurini Medhavi from Kottawa was busy painting amidst the hubbub of the Kala Pola. She also works as a draftsperson while indulging in her passion for art. She did a Fine Arts degree at Kelaniya which she puts to good use in doing private commissions. While she paints other styles her chosen medium is temple art. “ I do a lot of research on the internet for inspiration and in my spare time I try to visit temples to see how the traditional artists have created  temple art.” 

Also among the artists was a collective of friends who had taken up painting as a hobby. Dila, Sita, Yasuni, Sonali, Priyanka, Christella,  Ruvini and Michael have all banded together and turned to art to not only express themselves but also as a form of escapism from the stresses of their day jobs. They all chorused that they had a good day at the Kala Pola and highlighted the fact that this was great as this was an art fair which was accessible to all and also gave the opportunity to walk through the street looking at the work of various artists.  

Nalin Sampath Karunasena has been indulging in his passion as an artist for the last 30 years. His artistic talent was recognized while he was at school.  He studied Mass Communication at the Vibhavi Academy and now works at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs as a Development  Officer. He displayed a collection of fantastic line drawings that highlighted humankind’s connection to the environment. There was one drawing which connected the root of a tree to a foetus. “I want people to question my art like you did,” he told me. “I want my work to evoke powerful feelings in the minds of people who see it and question the rationale behind my work.”

Guest Comments

Naserah
Kala Pola is going from strength to strength and each year I see lots more talent. I came looking for sculptures and I was very fortunate to see a couple that I liked which I purchased and also added another painting to my collection.

Asheila
The standard of work keeps improving year after year. I purchased a painting today and I am happy to support the community of artists in this manner. We need to support our artists from the rural areas and the Kala Pola is the perfect platform for our rural artists too. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]

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