Finding strength in the weakest moment | Sunday Observer

Finding strength in the weakest moment

‘Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength’ Sigmund Freud is supposed to have said. One indicator of ‘good’ art is the artist’s ability to say through his/her art, what he or she cannot say otherwise. Sigmund Freud’s grandson, Lucian Freud, the renowned painter said that ‘The painter makes real to others his innermost feelings about all that he cares for. A secret becomes known to everyone through the intensity with which it is felt’. It is intensity and secrecy that one feels when looking at Kasun Manoj’s paintings. At first glance they are of lotuses at night: nothing extraordinary in the subject matter. Yet there is something enchanting which entraps the gaze of the audience. Lines, forms and shades indicate that a story has been told or a secret whispered. I was intrigued to find out what it is.

‘I come from an artistic family. My mother worked in a ceramic factory as a designer. My sister and I were always encouraged to draw and paint at home. In school my aunt, mother’s sister, was our art teacher. Fortunately I was always blessed with the guidance and support of good art teachers’ Kasun reminisces. Both Kasun and his sister Chathurika Jayani are accomplished painters who have exhibited extensively and are much sought after by galleries and collectors. Kasun has studied multimedia design at the University of Visual and Performance Art, Colombo and has subsequently worked as a video editor, graphic designer, costume designer, assistant director in short and feature films. However, he had not given up his initial passion for painting .

‘My paintings and assemble art were displayed at the Annual Kala Pola for the past five years. I wanted to experiment with diverse media and didn’t want to feel restricted to one line of work. I believe one should have the freedom to explore and experiment in Art’ Kasun explains. ‘Through art I learnt to observe nature and view things differently to what has been taught to us through convention and tradition. I find spirituality in nature and feel that nature consists of all the answers to our existentialist queries. I realized that there was a dearth in artistic expression with regard to the spiritual aspect as opposed to the superficial beauty of nature. I wanted to fill in this gap and sought inspiration from master artists. For example I looked at Vincent Van Gogh’s and Ivan Pieris’ work.

I found that Van Gogh expressed inner turbulence, whereas Ivan Pieris had been more calm, solitary in his approach. I could see the person through each one’s art and I tried as much as possible to express my inner thoughts and feelings through my own art.’

Kasun elaborates on a phase of his life in which he had lost an intimate relationship. With the intention of looking for a life partner for her son, Kasun’s mother had been going through the matrimonial sections of the newspapers. ‘I found that to be ridiculous! The information given in the Matrimonials were like advertisements for trading commodities. Just to revolt, I started to scribble and doodle on the matrimonial pages. That was how the first of the current lotus series came about.’

Usually the lotus is used as a symbol for purity, prosperity and success. The lotus is also commonly used as a religious, spiritual and philosophical symbol, especially in Asian cultures. However, Kasun uses the lotus flowers, leaves and fruits as well as the night sky and the moon to symbolise sensuality, sexuality and procreation. The flower is used to indicate masculinity, the leaf for femininity, the fruit as the product of male-female togetherness.

Kasun does not restrict himself to one medium and manipulates diverse media such as watercolour, ink, acrylics, paper, canvas and collage in order to produce vibrant, layered work which exuberates his inner thoughts and emotions. His main intention is to reveal the unseen aspects of natural phenomena. ‘Most people live for the sake of living. They have no necessity to truly enjoy what nature provides and fail to grasp the concept of ‘freedom’.

It is this same freedom that he attempts to inculcate in his students.

‘I work as a state sector art teacher. Aesthetics are not seen as important or necessary in the current competitive educational context. This system is geared to produce robots and not humans who could feel, think, sense. I try my best to show my students that there is something more to life than running a rat race’ Kasun Manoj is an artist who paints his art as well as his life from his heart. He presents his secrets to the world with lotuses which sway and whisper in the moonlight. There is much to be heard.

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