Lilliput: A solo art exhibition by Asela Liyanage | Sunday Observer

Lilliput: A solo art exhibition by Asela Liyanage

28 November, 2021

It has been found out that long before any sort of writing appeared about dwarfs, they were able to be found in artwork, created in every culture and in every period of time. As per the Oxford Dictionary, dwarfs are defined as a person, animal or plant that is much below the usual size.

Asela Liyanage is a young Sri Lankan artist whose versatilityin dwarf paintings is of tremendous significance. Asela becomes an exception by simply approaching a form of art which is not frequently discussed.

The exhibition at the Gallery Fourlife, 26, Boteju Road, Thibirigasyaya, Colombo 5 concludes today at 6 p.m.

His exhibition ‘Lilliput’ directly resembles and symbolizes the dwarfs. Asela is not a stranger to the world of painting. He is armed with the apt academic credentials which have created him a formidable platform on which he shines in his favourite field of art.

Born and bred in Piliyandala, Asela studied in three schools, namely, Piliyandala Primary School, Mahanama College, Colombo 3 and Ananda College, Colombo 10.

Having entered the University of Kelaniya he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In his Bachelor’s, Asela studied painting as a part of Visual Art together with History and Translation Methods.

Asela’s deeply rooted enthusiasm and the potential in painting made him eligible to obtain his master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Kelaniya.

Asela, speaking to the Sunday Observer noted, “We were actually the second batch of the Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of Kelaniya. You know, some of the well-known and talented artists in the island joined with the master’s degree programme and it gave me an excellent opportunity to shape up myself as an artist. The knowledge and experience gained during the Master’s is immeasurable. The confidence that I got in painting was absolutely remarkable.”

Asela commenting further said that he has previously taken part in art competitions and won, ‘Lilliput’ is his very first solo art exhibition, following the completion of his master’s in Fine Arts.

Asela is a researcher on dwarf paintings and moreover, the paintings that have been taken to the gallery are centrally based on the findings of the researches that he has so far conducted.

As noted by him, only a handful of researches have so far been conducted around the world with special reference to dwarf paintings where there remains a research gap.

Asela recollected his memory on the research, conducted during his master’s project in which “Gym Mania” was his selected theme.

Asela remarked, “You find that some school going young boys avoid attending school on some days as they are rather concerned on maintaining a sound physical fitness: some guys spend heavily on gyms in realizing their dream of having a six pack belly.

“I wanted to add a little bit of novelty in this specific matter and drew a sketch of a dwarf, depicting the actual characteristics of a bodybuilder. To my utter surprise, it grabbed the attention of the people,” he said.

Asela never wanted to keep his interest in painting at bay: he kept on exploring the different and diverse aspects of artistic intellectualism in the domain of painting where he found his intrinsic knack for dwarf paintings in particular.

In this specific endeavour, Jagath Raveendra of the aesthetic University who is one of his lecturers becomes his greatest source of inspiration. Asela noted that Jagath is his mentor and under whose able guidance, he got impressed to further his studies in dwarf paintings.

Asela’s research interests had mostly been around the dwarf paintings of the Kelaniya temple, the Abayagiri museum of the Archeology Department in Anuradhapura and the Kanthaka Vihara in Mihintale.

Asela said, “As you explore, you find that the painted pictures of the Bodhisathwa and the gods are seen being attired with the most exclusive and elegant dresses, while the ornaments such as the crown, necklaces, bangles and many more among others being a significant aspect of showcasing the upper most superiority of the figures, painted.

“Apart from that, with reference to the characteristics of the dwarf paintings, it is clearly depicted that the pictures of the dwarfs are found, attired in rather modest and simple outfits which demonstrate the life of ordinary folk. “There are 64 dwarfs all together and it has a huge diversity. Actually, in a nutshell, it’s a big concept,” Asela said.

In the ancient world, the images of dwarfs were found in abundance. The paintings of dwarfs are also found in the Buddhist monuments in Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan: the stone carvings and sculptures of Egypt and the vases of Greece are the other places where paintings of dwarfs are available.

According to researchers, the paintings of dwarfs had been a matter of great prominence in the art of the Mayas. The Chinese, Japanese and the Europeans have also experienced the beauty of dwarf paintings.

It is also clear that around 99% of the painted dwarfs are generally seen carrying the entire pressure of the architectural buildings. As further noted by Asela, the other most significant aspect of those dwarfs, painted in buildings, is that despite the heavy weight that they carry still they are depicted with a smiling and contented face.

“It is very rare that you see a dwarf being painted with a crown. The dwarf paintings are embedded with the features of ordinary people,” Asela shared.

Commenting very specifically on the dwarf paintings that he has selected for the ‘Lilliput’ art exhibition, Asela brought out an interesting and crucial fact where he expressed his concern on the contemporary issues of people.

“You know, in the ‘Lilliput’ art exhibition, I have tried to interpret, translate and depict the issues with which everyone equally faces, despite their social status. The ‘Lilliput’ exhibition is an extension of my research. I think I have successfully been able to showcase some serious issues, prevailing in any society through my artworks,” he said.

The ‘Lilliput’ solo art exhibition comprises 21 dwarf paintings all of which depict the contemporary issues in the society with special reference to Covid-19 pandemic, women and politics.

His paintings illustrate the innumerable negative economic consequences, brought out by the pandemic on the lives of people at large, regardless of their cast, creed, nationality, level of education, wealth, political idealism, gender, geography and as a whole the entire human race.

“Every exhibit in my art exhibition is the manifestation of the issues and obstacles encountered by people in their day today life: no matter, whether you talk about, feudalism, socialism, Marxism, capitalism or any other school of thought, you, as a human being feel the world around you in an equal manner perhaps as sentimental of the humans is predominantly the same with every human being, despite by the fact that their pattern of thoughts and attitudes may differ from each other,” Asela opined.

Asela said that he was motivated by an Indian dwarf painting which depicts a dwarf getting stampeded by the feet of Nataraja. He further said that it was with the very same motivation that he managed to draw a sketch of a dwarf depicting the ill treatment and injustice meted out by the rich on the poor.

Asela was recently awarded the ‘The Best Foreign Artist’ certificate in an online art competition, organized by the New Delhi based India Dakshin Art Gallery.

Apart from that, Asela’s artistic potential and capabilities have also been recognized by the Chandigarh University in India during his participation in the flagship titled encounter with colours at Tech Invent 2021.

Asela acknowledged his debt to Lanka De Silva, the course coordinator of the Master of Fine Arts program for her sincere and genuine efforts in making it a huge success.

“She was such an amazing person whose untiring efforts and dedicated service helped us to explore the hidden and genuine artists in ourselves,” Asela concluded.