Sunday, March 20, 2011
Sri Lankan Arts & Crafts
Buying artwork when traveling is a real passion of mine and something I have been doing for more than 15 years. My earliest pieces came from Uzbekistan. One was a painting I got at an outdoor market in Tashkent. The other was a unique piece of art that was given to me as a gift from an Uzbek friend. Later on I might post photos of these two treasures.
On Saturdays and Sundays in Colombo (Sri Lanka), artists from many backgrounds bring their work to Green Path, a street that runs along the southern end of Viharamahadevi Park (originally Victoria Park). They hang their work on the park fence, showcasing their talents to locals and tourists. For those who want to make a purchase, it's a simple negotiating system. The prices are not fixed and haggling is welcomed! Although prices are quite low compared to similar art in the United States, for example, savvy buyers work hard to get an even better bargain. At least I did! On the day Kyoko took Iris and me to Green Path, I bought one item: a modern, abstract oil painting of a Sri Lankan woman. The artist was an art teacher at a local university in Colombo. Once we reached a satisfactory price, he took the painting off of the stretcher board and then rolled it for me to take home. Just recently I got the painting framed.
During my time at Hikkaduwa Beach in Southern Sri Lanka, I had plenty of time to walk into some art galleries. Although I liked several galleries, I eventually settled on a gallery run by a brother and sister team. The brother was the artist and the sister ran the shop. What won me over were all the newspaper clippings and magazine articles showing that a major customer of his art was a gallery in Holland. Kyoko and I spent some time walking around the inside of the gallery and then behind the gallery, where a number of works were displayed outdoors. When I saw the painting of the monk walking up the temple steps, well, I just had to have it. I think I got it for $80, which I feel is a very, very good price. I bought a second painting that I ended up giving to Kyoko. Once she frames it, I intend to post it on my blog too.
Finally, if you are in Sri Lanka, a typical souvenir to buy is a traditional mask. You see many varieties and qualities in shops all over the country. Luckily, on our way to the beach, we were able to stop off at an antique shop run by a Sri Lankan young man whose English was impeccable. At the time I wasn't looking solely for masks. I was considering many things. In the end, though, when it came down to purchasing something that would most remind me of this exotic South Asian island country, I kept coming back to a mask. In fact, I bought two.