A Certain Quality of Flight: Art for the Soul
by Ameena Hussein

Anoma Wijewardene should need no introduction. Her paintings have been exhibited in Kuala Lumpur, Brisbane, Singapore and Britain as well as in Colombo over the last decade; two years ago she had a solo show in New Delhi and has now been invited to do a solo exhibition in Sydney in 2005. Before devoting her time fully to painting for many years her design work was sold in New York, Paris, Milan, Frankfurt and Tokyo and her clients include Givenchy. Cardin, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. During her time in the UK her designs have been exhibited in the House of Commons and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She graduated from the acclaimed Central St. Martins College of Art and has lectured there and at several UK Art colleges and now continues to teach in Colombo.

Anoma says that it is the poet Rainer Maria Rilke who has inspired her most recent exhibition of paintings. Her paintings, which abound in symbolism and metaphor deal with the numinous world. Each of her twenty-five mixed media paintings takes their title from a Rilke poem. Each of them tells a tale: a chronicle of seeking, searching and the eventual awakening of the soul.

This is not an exhibition to hurry through, it is instead one where you treasure each viewing, where a different symbol is seen each time.

There was a time when spirituality and art were inextricably linked. Spirituality is such a vibrant and integral part of our lives that even our changing times have not stifled the powerful partnership of spirituality and art in the modern era. The realm of the spiritual is mysterious and inviting. It is a place where we are encouraged to explore the unknown, to search, ponder and reflect. Art reminds us that life is stranger, more beautiful, demanding, Joyous and painful than common sense knows.

Rilke’s spiritual poem Sonnets to Orpheus from which many of the titles are taken, are concerned with the "identity of terror" and "bliss and the oneness of life and death". Legend has it that Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea — "who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies? " It is that line that comes to my mind when 1 see the depth and detail of Anoma’s paintings.

They are the colours of the spirit, the depth of the soul. In her paintings we see the birds of life in flight. There is a breathless lightness and a quickening of the pulse. There is a re-birth of the soul and an awakening of the heart.

To me, Anoma’s paintings depict Rilke’s belief in the coexistence of the material and spiritual realms, where human beings are only spectators of life, grasping its beauties momentarily only to lose them again. With the power of creativity an artist can try to build a bridge between two worlds: which in my view Anoma not only attempts, but also succeeds. For me, her paintings bridge the poetry of Rilke with the mysticism of the Sufis. Their essence is captured by the Sufl poet Jalaludeen Rumi who said:

This is love:

To fly toward a secret sky,

To cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.

First to let go of life,

Finally, to take a step without feet.

Venue: Gallery Cafe

Dates: 19th November — 9th December

Time: 10 a.m. — 12 noon


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