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Lionel Wendt Art Centre, Sri Lanka introduces a new platform for South Asian art

South Asian art is definitely having a moment, and when that happens, it’s important to rethink the way in which we present our local art internationally,” says Colombo-based gallerist Saskia Fernando, when discussing what compelled her to found Kalā, a new annual platform for showcasing South Asian art, in association with the Lionel Wendt Art Centre. The platform launches in Colombo in January 2024 with a month-long line-up of events. At its core is a meticulously curated exhibition: Echo, Glide, Pivot.

“What’s exciting about the Sri Lankan art scene is that we’re a very diverse group of practitioners. That is the nature of the people of this island. They are well travelled and exposed to other parts of the world, but in their narrative and conceptual direction, you always see the connection to Sri Lanka,” says Fernando.

Echo, Glide, Pivot brings together works by prolific modern and contemporary artists from across Sri Lanka and its diaspora, including selections of modern art pioneer Lionel Wendt’s works sourced from the Lionel Wendt Archive. Selected by assistant curator Mariyam Begum under the guidance of curatorial advisor Sandhini Poddar, the works are presented in various groupings, each engaging with a different element of Wendt’s oeuvre—his experiments with the image-making process, engagement with architecture and light, preoccupation with the human body, landscapes and more.

The result is a curation with works by leading modernists and Wendt’s contemporaries—Ivan Peries, George Claessen and George Keyt—and younger artists such as Rupaneethan Pakkiyarajah, Liz Fernando, Sebastian Posingis and others. With sculptures, performance based photography, video work and installations, the exhibit also highlights the practitioners’ use of different mediums. Fernando doesn’t want to restrict Kalā to an exhibition format, and has partnered with Art South Asia Project, a UK-based non-profit, to host talks, skill-based workshops and other programming for local practitioners.

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