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Barrelism

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Tonight I was at the opening of a group show in which I have a work and met one of the participants of the Common Goods; Cultures meet through craft exhibition that is showing at the Melbourne Museum until 7 May. Chandraguptha Thenuwara from Sri Lanka describes his work as ‘Barrelism’. In parts of Sri Lanka the military make their presence felt by barricading areas with barrels.

Thenu echoes this invasion on everyday life by painting camouflage on everything and anything he can find, particularly barrels and uses bright yellow on many of his works to express the highly visible military element of his country.

As part of the Common goods project, eight Commonwealth countries have been invited to work with local artists to produce a work to go on display until 7 May. They then produced a work of art over the month of February especially for the Commonwealth Games. I don’t know at this point what Thenu has produced but it’s bound to be more than eye-catching and I suspect a little political. The barrel has many connotations in culture today and as Thenu has pointed out,

With the war, that innocent barrel changed. It was camouflaged colourfully with paint. Many barrels invaded the towns and cities, including Colombo. These barrels became a part of the landscape. They created “barrelscapes’? (exhibition catalogue, June 1998, “The story of a barrel”)

If you would like to see Thenu he is speaking at the National School of Art tomorrow and at the Gallery School at the Meadowbank College of TAFE on Thursday 9th March.

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