is a celebration of life — my celebration of life. It is a bold
statement: I am here! I live life I love me! I can be anything!
I can do anything!" says Joseph Zinker. This is true in the life
Segar. Though the discovery of his inborn talent came later in
his life, since then his life had been changed because of his
creativity. His passion for painting, which is his distinctive
nature, has put him in the forefront of being one of the best
Sri Lankan professional painters of the age.
The biography of his becoming what he is today
is awesome. His incipient career had been an accountant and then
a public relations officer at the Elephant House in the early
eighties. "A promising professional" that was how he was known
to his employers there. This position paved way for coming in
contact with the people, as he listened to their complaints and
stories. This also gave him the chance to come to awareness that
he belongs to a community that he participates with others in
life’s task. As an artist, he wanted to see the world and human
character with a clear and realistic gaze.
The leisure time was a time of self-discovery
and adventure towards the noble creativity of art the nonverbal
language of the inner world. One fine day of June, the month of
goddess Juno, one of his friends approached him for his
suggestion of something to place in the church sale. The idea
sprouted was the hand made greetings cards, made during his
leisure. The surprise remark of his friend on seeing the
beautiful artistic greeting cards was "...Segar, you don’t
belong here!" The realization of his hidden talent discovered
gave him the urge to produce more painting cards.
His first painting was the ‘fish monger’, who
stopped by at his dwelling daily. This showed that Segar was a
people oriented person, and most of his painting., still
reflects this aspect. Segar could not resist the temptation of
framing the "fish monger". He hid his creation, fearing the
pessimistic remark of his family members. The disappointment of
the cynical comment by his mother; "what a waste of the glass
and the frame" made him so angry that he dumped the painting
into the garbage. But the urge was so strong that he obeyed his
inclination to paint more and more. His ability got refined as
he used his biology and chemistry notebooks to sketch human
figures in different life styles and actions. More and more
paintings on greeting cards were the outcome of his hard work.
They took the places in the shelves of the famous bookshops like
Tabrobane and Lake House. The demand was such, that he declined
being an employee of the Elephant House to a self-taught modem
Donavan, the Dutch connoisseur valued his
painting so much that he bought his first painting. The
gratefulness is reflected on naming his boy child after him. A
couple of his paintings occupied the space of art gallery of the
renowned artist Senake Senanayake. The enthusiastic young artist
in a week’s time found that his painting was missing.
Nevertheless he was overwhelmed with joy to know that it was
sold. Here began his carrier.
Unlike the artists who were inclined to draw
traditionally devout religious art and iconography, he followed
the modern artists who are free now to choose from a bewildering
variety of art styles: realism, impressionism, expressionism,
surrealism, cubism, abstraction, abstract expressionism,
pop-art, neo-realism and so on. In the process Segar originated
his own style "refrective effects in cubism" as his famous
subjects were physics and mathematics. (Refraction of light when
it travels thru different density)
The age of traditional art seems past and some
have spoken of the "eclipse of symbolism".
When Segar took painting as his profession, he
began to study its mode and style all by himself. His interest
in photography and plastic arts urged him to the habit of
reading a lot on painting from the Encyclopedias. This with his
almost total adoration of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, provided
the necessary frame work for a self disciplined study and
practice of the art. Shades of amber toning into subtle yellow
and brown are Segar’s forte in blending colour. There are
reproduction of his works in t-shirts, greeting cards, bed
sheets and tablecloths, with and without the artist’s consent.
Segar’s paintings are an unusual visual
experience in that they are a combination of realistic and
abstract. The angular lines reflect Cubism, which has its roots
in Paris. The real style of his paintings is ‘figurative cubism’
he says. The philosophy behind his style of art, even to the
extent of tracing the evolution of his love for cubism goes to
his early days of ‘cramped living’ in a housing estate in
Colombo. However He faithfully holds on to his style and gives
the reason that a professional painter, if goes on changing his
style, would loose his identity.
Segar loves the works of artist Ganesh Pyne of
India and Vincent Manansala of Philippine. He derives his
inspiration from life, and tries to depict his emotional
feelings through colour and composition. Like many other artists
of his ilk, Segar is somewhat temperamental at times. It is said
that he used to throw away or destroy his own paintings when he
found them loathsome. He tries to express his feeling of anger
and disappointments in his painting.
For his subjects, like Tea Pluckers, Weavers and
Dancers, he uses a fair degree of stylization. Painting oriental
women has been his favourites theme. Among many of his other
paintings are women in various moods. He makes triangular shapes
lock into one another, to meaningfully break up the human
anatomy in an effective manner. During 1992, in an interview
with a newspaper Segar made his comment about the paintings of
the Sri Lankan artists not being taken the place of the cover
page even in the Asian edition of the Reader’s Digest. It was
such a coincidence that his painting titled "Three Tea Pluckers"
appeared in the back cover of February 1998 issue of Reader’s
Digest, along with his photograph in the 2nd page. Regarding
international recognition of Sri Lankan art Segar said that
Sotheby art auction in London has the paintings of the modem
artists in India. Other than Keyt and Ivan, even the work of
past Lankan painters failed to appear in the international art
auctions. His desire is that the paintings of the living Sri
Lankan artists should also be promoted in the international art
auctions such as Sotheby and Christie’s in New York.
The nonverbal creativity of art has evolved long
ago and it has a long way to go. Segar is one of those who have
contributed to the evolution of the age and this is his 26th
one-man show. which will be on from Wednesday, the October 20th
2004 at the Felix Gallery, 75 Alexandra Place, Colombo 7.