Paradise of art lovers | Sunday Observer

Paradise of art lovers

Inspired by the open-air summer art fairs of Europe, Kala Pola, an iconic Sri Lankan open air art fair presented by The George Keyt Foundation in association with the John Keells Group is ready to kick start its 27th phase this year. Kala Pola is absolutely an annual ritual for all art lovers as well as the local artists that brings a vibrant and very much localized experience with an authentic Sri Lankan spin, to showcase their talent to a wider local and international audience in the areas of paintings as well as sculpting.

Conceptualized by the George Keyt Foundation, Kala Pola was first launched in 1993 with about 30 artists, at a time when only the artists who could afford gallery space were in the spotlight. Since then, with the unbroken patronage of the John Keells Group over a span of 25 years, Kala Pola has steadily grown to become the most sought after local platform for painters and sculptors to meet, network and present their creations.

Over the years Kala Pola has helped many artists in Sri Lanka to grow their craft and showcase their work both locally as well as internationally. Last year Kala Pola attracted over 350 artists and over 31,000 art lovers from across the country, and in addition, 235 children indulged in painting and clay work at the Children’s Art Corner hosted by the Kala Pola premises.

This year, the registration of artists for Kala Pola was digitized and this novel attempt has attracted over 370 applications. Not limiting the exposure of visual art to one day of the year, John Keells Foundation also hosts and maintains the website, a digital art gallery which showcases local talent in art and sculpture throughout the year, counting over 1,000 registered artists to date.

A veteran artist associated with Kala Pola, Seevali Illangasinghe, has been composing vibrant paintings for many years. “Kala Pola is a great opportunity for all artists across Sri Lanka” he says.

Seevali has been one of the very first artists who has been part of the Kala Pola from its inception in 1993. He has witnessed the gradual growth of the festival over the past 27 years from a small festival of around 35 artists to the large scale festival it is today, that spans the entire stretch of Green Path in Colombo.

Speaking about his inspiration behind art, Seevali said, “My art is always related to nature. In this day and age where we see more development and less conservation, I believe my art shines light on the beauty of nature and how fragile, yet wonderful it is. I also paint many landscapes of my memories from the village I grew up in, Siwalakulama, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Some of my paintings look back fondly at my childhood, as well as portray the traditional culture of Sri Lanka,”

“In my opinion, Kala Pola has provided art lovers, buyers, tourists and the artists themselves an opportunity to interact. In return, they can learn more about our culture and the artists’ stories behind the work, while giving the artists an opportunity to be financially supported as well. I think more events like this should be organized to connect buyers and artists. As an artist I am really grateful for the opportunities I conquer through Kala Pola and wish this great endeavour continues for many more years,” said Seevali.

The George Keyt Foundation (GKF) was established on June 18, 1988, during the lifetime of the iconic Sri Lankan artist, George Keyt, to foster visual art and artists. The George Keyt Foundation has paved the way for emerging artists by providing opportunities to exhibit their work, develop their clientele and enhance their learning and networking.

Over the years, Kala Pola has been visited by many art connoisseurs, collectors and professionals as well as students and teachers of art. Visitor access to the fair is free-of-charge. Apart from the abundance of art available at the event, it also features live performances of Sri Lankan dance, folk singing, drumming and other local performers, making the event an art hub by showcasing diverse flavours of art in the country. Kala Pola also helps artists to expand their horizons by meeting and interacting with other like-minded artists and individuals.

Kala Pola has always been the meeting-point and a treat for artists and others, an annual ritual that everybody looks forward to!


Kala Pola – the iconic Sri Lankan open air art fair presented by The George Keyt Foundation in association with the John Keells Group - will be held along Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7, on Sunday, February 23, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.