Ancient and Modern Art in Sri Lanka

Dambulla Cave Temple

As some of you will know, Margaret and I spent three weeks touring Sri Lanka in February, a nice break from the icy blast of winter here in West Norfolk. Before we left, Esther asked us to “look out for some art, that could make a piece for Update!” Actually, like all Asian countries, Sri Lanka has a huge tradition of sculpture and painting, stretching back over the centuries, much of it religious based. You can see a couple of examples here, the row of Buddhas in the Dambulla Caves near Kandy date back to the 12th Century and are all the more amazing when you consider that they were sculpted in situ, in a cave, by candle light. We also visited the ruined city of Polonnaruwa, abandoned 800 years ago and another treasure trove of high quality sculpture.

Colombo Mosque

Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, although there are other religions which are freely tolerated. In Colombo we passed this spectacularly decorated mosque, rather incongruously sited in a main shopping street.

There is modern art too, although we did not see many examples of paintings by present day Sri Lankan artists. However, at a hotel in which we stayed there was a fine display of elephant themed sculpture, made by local artists to celebrate the hotel’s opening in 2016. My personal favourite has to be Herd the News, made entirely from recycled newsprint. However, Tom Sharp might get some ideas for his next construction from these scrap metal elephants that were around half full size.


Polonnaruwa

If you get the chance to visit Sri Lanka do go. The people are friendly and welcoming, the colours, sights, sounds and smells endlessly intriguing, and they make a pretty good curry too. Oh, and it’s warm!

Stephen Martyn