The sculpture of Sri Lankan artist Prageeth Manohansa is a mirror of the history and hope of a nation challenged by human and natural disaster. Wrecked by more than two decades of bloody civil war and struck by a massive tsunami, the landscape of much of Sri Lanka, one of the most beautiful islands on earth, is strewn with the junk and debris of the shattered past. In imitation of the allegory of the sacred lotus flower rooted in the muck at the bottom of the pond, Manohansa has found his inspiration in the transformation of these twisted wrecks into living art objects of scintillating power reminding us of the extraordinary ability of humans to dream of brighter futures under the most trying of circumstances. As a creator-constructionist, Manohansa’s explores two subjects in his current work. The first is a menagerie of whimsical and graceful animals. While the elements from which they are made – car parts, broken machines, ploughs – are no secret, they are living creatures that are far more than the sum of their individual parts. The light and laughter of his animals stands out in contrast with his “Yakka Masks”. These belong to the ancient animistic tradition of the Sanni exorcistic ritual dances performed along Sri Lanka’s Southwest coast. Mislabelled as ‘Devil Masks” the purpose of these rituals and dances is shamanic healing by enlisting the invisible powers of nature to heal. The parallel between the healing of an individual, society or nation by confronting their demons is not lost upon the artist. Between the animals and the masks comes Ganesha the beloved elephant headed God. The patron of education, the son of Shiva is also known as Vighnarâja “the Remover of Obstacles”. When strewn about haphazardly in the wake of war and disaster, junk is an obstacle. In the hands of a brilliant and optimistic artist like Prageeth Manohansa, it is the stu of blessed miracles.

Saskia Fernando Gallery