Putting the pieces together

Nanda Wijesekera’s exhibition, "Pieces", held at Gandara Gallery on the 27th-28th May is a collection of such puzzles. While the subject matter straddles the spectrum from art and architecture to people and nature, the puzzles themselves range from 500 piece woodcuts like "Devon Express" to a mammoth 5000 piece epics like "Westminister at Noon." The collection includes a glow-in-the-dark photo of Malaysia’s twin towers and a highly complex double sided puzzle featuring thoroughbred canines.

While the intricate puzzles engage the soul, the unusual ones capture the imagination. There’s the "Impossi-puzzle" featuring a myriad Winnie the Poohs in similar, but unidentical poses. Each piece looks virtually the same, making its completion a masterclass in perseverence.

Then there’s the "Siege of Troy" starring a cast of a thousand cartoon Greeks and Trojans. Hidden amidst the chaos is popular character Wally. At next weekend’s exhibition, prizes will be awarded to whoever locates Wally and guesses the correct number of Poohs.

But what truly fascinates has very little to do with what we see. Each jigsaw takes an average 30 hours to complete. It is a painstaking process requiring method, intuition, patience and mental stillness. Through the outlines of the shapes, we can see the passing of the hours, the moment of creative immersion; when the world evaporates and craft and craftsperson become one.

The act of creation is nothing new to Nanda Wijesekera. One time Sri Lanka Badminton champion and Vice Principal of a leading Colombo girl’s school, her time outside family has always been engaged in artistic endeavours like bead work, knitting, costume design, needlework and in the solving of puzzles. "Pieces" is a tribute to a lifelong hobby that eventually became a passion.

While one cannot help but marvel at the range of style and subject, it is the attention to detail that truly evokes awe. A labour of love best suited to Ms Wijesekera’s keen memory, methodical temperament and calm sensibility.

Its pursuit has enabled her to overcome personal tragedy and failing eyesight. And to triumph. Each picture is more than a collection of pieces. Each picture is a goal attained and a challenge conquered.

Jigsaw puzzles provide both therapy and mental stimulation. Forming, in an era of shrinking attention spans, a far more holistic path to relaxation than inane TV shows and violent computer games. They grant us the means of passing time and transcending it. And gift us the magic of a thousand jagged pieces, arranged with love, to form a thing of real beauty .


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