Saskia Fernando Gallery presents Covert Drawings by Chandraguptha Thenuwara, a series of ink on paper works created alongside the artist’s welded metal installation presented at the European Cultural Centre Venice during the 59th Venice Biennale this year. In creating the installation, Thenuwara sifted through his most salient bodies of work, each of them a meditation on a historic moment in Sri Lanka’s contemporary political history. Thenuwara lifted recurrent fragments from these series: the lotus, the stupa, the soldier, the barrel. These references, swirling around throughout Thenuwara’s practice, are amalgamated in Covert.
Thenuwara began his process by creating line drawings of his planned installation that was then blown up to scale. The motifs, piece by piece, were welded onto a drum to create a hollow centre. Rising over 200 centimetres in height, the work stands as a monolith representation of his explorations of Sri Lankan politics since 1997. In composing the shape of the column, Thenuwara references his early body of work titled Barrelism where he appropriated found tar barrels to question the ubiquity of military checkpoints in Sri Lanka’s civilian landscape.
In Covert, his webs of motifs are glitches themselves – at first glance, they are alluring lattice works, then suddenly emerging from the lotus pods, buds, and leaves are the stern forms of soldiers, guns, daggers – the paraphernalia of war - all ensnared in prickly thorns. In Covert Drawings, Chandraguptha Thenuwara meticulously lays out these elements, lifted from the initial installation, to create a powerful visual index of this self-referential work.