Marie Alles Fernando
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A Talk delivered at the Women’s International Club, Colombo
on 18 July 2013

I feel deeply honoured by this invitation to speak to you on the subject of Art and Aesthetics. It is a subject to which I have devoted my life. No doubt to each of us these two words mean different things: there are many areas of life – especially women’s lives – in which art is created every day: needlework, for instance, gardening, weaving, embroidery, writing, cooking … even conversation. (Although, speaking of conversation, I once sat next to a gentleman who told me: “Any one can paint – it just needs a dot and a splash, doesn’t it?” Was he uneducated? Or was he trying to flirt? I didn’t wait around to find out.) For some of us, who are familiar with the interiors of churches and temples, ART means architecture, statuary and sculpture.

For me, the word ART instantly puts me in mind of canvas, brushes and paint. My own experience tells me that there are 5 requirements for an artist such as myself:
  1. Natural talent
  2. Imagination
  3. Visual stimulation
  4. Intellectual interest
  5. Stamina (physical and mental strength)
Someone has to notice natural talent in a young artist, and trigger that instinct in her. In my case, it was my artistic mother. In early childhood I was surrounded by beauty; and to this day I remember the beautiful gardens in my grandparents’ homes. Paintings on the walls, books in the cupboards. Freedom to roam, freedom to read. My paternal grandmother’s eye for fine jewellery created a collection of pieces that were works of art in themselves. I grew up in an atmosphere where art was part of daily life.

After my initial art classes at St Bridget’s Convent, I studied art under two teachers: Ivor Baptiste and Professor Douglas Amarasekera. When I was 15, my parents took me to Europe. This was a revelation, I had seen nothing at home to compare with what I saw in the museums and art galleries of London, Paris, Florence and Rome. I was awe struck, inspired. That was a turning point in my artistic life. It was also the start of many journeys abroad, notably to India and China, which have broadened my perspective and stimulated my imagination.

Let me ask you to perform a simple 2-part exercise. First, clear your mind and imagine the world in only shades of grey. How dull! How dismal! Now, recall a beautiful rainbow that you have seen; or a magnificent landscape; or a colourful painting. What makes the difference? You feel yourself drawn into a magnetic field created by a radiating, hypnotic energy. Focus on that image: time ceases to matter, light is experienced as something divine, something you cannot put into words.
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