Memory Keeper by Anoli Perera will be exhibited at Hempel Galleries, till August 21, 2016. Anoli’s paintings and sculptures explore the theme of memory and the anxiety of forgetting. According to her, “memory is a chameleon and a great manipulator. It’s elusive, yet accessible. It’s fragile, yet powerful. One cannot be without it, and its absence scares us. We become its captive as memory is our anchor to a place, to a root and to our sense of time.”
The artist takes memory as something that is also inscribes in objects where they become residues of moments in time, about which we reminisce in context and out of contect. In her work she discusses the idea of memory not only as an entity that memorises faces but also objects and situation, often theatrically positioned within the nostalgias of the keepers of memory. For Anoli, the men and women sitting on carved high back chairs next to a teapoy, posing and gesturing, set in backgrounds with theatrical ambience, or a wedding party with multiple rows of people peering at an unseen stranger in the foreground who would register the moment, project their positions in histories not only through their personas but also in their associations with objects they pose with. Handed over from one generation to another, such relics entomb and ensure the longevity and continuation of selective moments in history and with it, they imprison parts of the present using nostalgia as agents of such entombments. In these moments, the present becomes prisoners of the past.
Perera’s work incorporates the concept of ‘bricolage’ where fragments from different written texts, images, raw materials, objects and painted surfaces are juxtaposed together giving a atextures surface. Captivated by the processes of needlework, her art making tends to incorporate stitching and a predominant use of fabric as raw material for her sculptures and installations.
Anoli is a self-taught artist and was a part of the wave of artists in the 1990s who professed a new ideological position through their art production in relation to contemporary art knowledge and social contexts of Sri Lanka. She is at her best when she engages in making labour intensive art works (installation and paintings), an exercise in which she locates herself in the intermediate zone between craft and art. She weaves by placing or by suturing a single unit piece by piece together as if she were solving or making a puzzle carefully. At completion, she leaves a sense of tentativeness on the work in terms of the possible visual pleasures that the work can offer to its observers.