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ANOLI PERERA

“Sometimes, the materials themselves inspire me to work in unison to create a work,” says Perera.

LONG WALK

Made from fabric, cotton stuffing, PVC pipes, magnifying lenses, and printed Images

WORKING WITH MATERIALS

“I enjoy the texture of cloth, and mirrors to give optical illusion, and magnifying lenses to see something almost hidden.”

THE SHROUD
THE LEFT BEHINDER

“The ‘Left Behinder’ touches on the emotional anxieties pertaining to a long distance relationship, centering around my own relationship with my mother.”

PERERA’S WORK FOR KMB 2018

‘The Left Behinder’ consists of 12 tapestries made out of cloth and a 20-feet-long book art.

THE LEFT BEHINDER
AT KMB 2018 WHICH OPENED ON 12 DECEMBER

Installation View of the ‘The Left Behinder’

I LET MY HAIR LOOSE: PROTEST

“‘I Let My Hair Loose: Protest’ deals with the politics of the gaze and the portrayal of female subjectivity in a particular way.”

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Showcase 08 Jan 2019

CQ Interviews: Sri-Lanka-based artist Anoli Perera on exploring materials in her works, at KMB 2018

Materials, along with their historicity and metaphors, metamorphose into Sri Lanka-based artist Anoli Perera’s exquisite works. Perera has been combining the materials surrounding her, with the situations and experiences in the social context she lives in. We speak to her about the use and significance of these materials in her work and about the two artworks she is currently exhibiting at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, curated by Anita Dube.

About the concept of 'bricolage' in her work.

Anoli: I work with many materials on the same work. Sometimes, the materials themselves inspire me to work in unison to create a work. The word ‘bricolage’ has a French origin which means ‘process of improvisation’. In the context of art, it means putting together found/diverse materials to make a work.

ANOLI PERERA

“Sometimes, the materials themselves inspire me to work in unison to create a work,” says Perera.

My work is created mostly from the materials that surround me, and that’s combined with what I remember or have memorialised over time. When people ask me about the medium I use or whether I am a painter or a sculptor, I find it difficult to answer because my work incorporates all of that. My work has many layers, and the material I use almost always retains its historicity. If I use crochet lace, it’s because of its history in relation to women and colonialism within Sri Lanka. If I use cloth/stitching work, it’s because I have a family background of women doing extensive needlepoint work as a home-making element. My art practice connects to this history.  

Some of the most interesting materials she’s used so far.

Anoli: I have used many materials. I enjoy the texture of cloth, and mirrors to give optical illusion, and magnifying lenses to see something almost hidden. Actually, I was first trained as a stone carver and have used various junk materials including spare car parts in the past. More recently, I have used printed image on fabric, overlapping it with other transparent material. This is seen in the work exhibited at the ongoing KMB.

LONG WALK

Made from fabric, cotton stuffing, PVC pipes, magnifying lenses, and printed Images

WORKING WITH MATERIALS

“I enjoy the texture of cloth, and mirrors to give optical illusion, and magnifying lenses to see something almost hidden.”

Textiles especially have played a significant role in your work. How has your relationship with textiles as a medium evolved over the years?

Anoli: I started experimenting with textiles after I saw an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s work with big spiders in 1998 in Sweden. This really changed my approach to art-making, and I started using cloth and cloth-related material in my work extensively.

THE SHROUD

And after I shifted to textiles, I fully understood the language and meanings embedded in this medium. I realised that textiles have a tendency to get ethnic, class and gender indexed, while they also hold many histories in their folds. It reconnected me with the oeuvre, metaphor and aesthetic practices of women who have been engaged in needle-art in the past generations of my own family. I felt liberated because of the depth and breadth it provided me in terms of cultural memory, meaning and metaphor. It connected me to a historical lineage I could easily find affinity with.

“Textiles have a tendency to get ethnic, class and gender indexed, while they also hold many histories in their folds.”

About the two works you are exhibiting at KMB 2018 - ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’.

Anoli: The ‘Left Behinder’ touches on the emotional anxieties pertaining to a long distance relationship, centering around my own relationship with my mother, an 86-year old matriarch who is losing her memory. Her sewing book becomes my fetish object, my source of proximity to her.

THE LEFT BEHINDER

“The ‘Left Behinder’ touches on the emotional anxieties pertaining to a long distance relationship, centering around my own relationship with my mother.”

PERERA’S WORK FOR KMB 2018

‘The Left Behinder’ consists of 12 tapestries made out of cloth and a 20-feet-long book art.

We live in a connected world, but it’s also so disconnected. Some say that the world has become a smaller place with the communication technology boom, however, it’s also the age of mass migration of an enormous magnitude. The borders are made fluid, cities fall, and frontiers are dismantled when human exodus takes place forcefully or voluntarily, looking for new homes, opportunities and dreams. In all of this, human relationships becomes the casualty. Families are scattered, memories are selective, and histories get erased.

THE LEFT BEHINDER

Negotiating connectivity, proximity and access becomes painful conversations and self-preservation becomes primal. Love suffers. We, who are born in this ‘connected but disconnected’ age, have become the victims of this cruel dichotomy. We are made to hold on to objects rather than humans, and memory and memorabilia become fetish, a compromised comfort in the absence or presence.  

I have taken the title ‘Left Behinder’ from a poem by the Sri Lankan poet, Jean Arasanayagam, who comes from the Eurasian community, large numbers of which migrated to Australia and other places post Sri Lanka’s independence. Her poem reminisces of the pains of disconnection and the lamentations of remembrance of the diaspora community. The poem resonates with the emotional undercurrents of the work which consists of 12 tapestries made out of cloth and a 20-feet-long book art.

“My work has many layers, and the material I use almost always retains its historicity.”

And what inspired the other work ‘I Let My Hair Loose: Protest’?

Anoli: It’s a photo-performance by me. This series deals with the politics of the gaze and the portrayal of female subjectivity in a particular way.  This was inspired by the memories of me gazing at the stone-faced women in the old photographs in my grandmother’s house as a child.

AT KMB 2018 WHICH OPENED ON 12 DECEMBER

Installation View of the ‘The Left Behinder’

I LET MY HAIR LOOSE: PROTEST

“‘I Let My Hair Loose: Protest’ deals with the politics of the gaze and the portrayal of female subjectivity in a particular way.”

The work uses female hair as a means to arrest the male gaze which objectifies the female sitter. The use of the hair as a covering for the face gives other layers of meaning to the work. Hair in its proper place is seen as a mark of beauty, but hair out of place is seen as significations of hysterical, uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable behaviour (alluding to Medusa's hair). Therefore, using hair as a covering for the face goes beyond the idea of a protective veil. It is more about the defiance to let the male gaze rest on the woman's face, and an obstruction that does not allow the completion of the voyeur’s process of enjoyment. Therefore hair-covering manifests into a protest.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 is curated by Anita Dube, and is on view until 29 March, 2019. This is the first in our series of articles covering Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018.