SURA MEDURA – Blog 3 – Love to Sri Lanka
Startled shadow of the fruit bat
imprinted on the Dammissara Road
arrests me on the cycle home
past the Buddha statue
the velvet firmament
dusky blue and brass gold stars
where dogs sleep on the road
stars poke through the canopy of breadfruit
and I halt and pay attention to this sizzling magic
Sri Lanka at peace now in knowing
I can leave having seen you
under this sky
showing me in layered ways
your response to a full life
the full moon topped up heart
pulled back a curtain
to the rhythm of this land
ancient ancient ancient people
working together interlocking
I can feel the bass of the sea
and the rain that woke up the tree frogs
I have been back in Scotland for a month now. The Scottish and Sri Lankan environment might as well exist on two different parallel planes, both are alive but in apparently opposite ways, moods and tones…
The final showing at the end of the residency was a really useful push to present a summation of ideas as they stood at that point. I finally got to see what my fellow artists had been cooking up in their individual projects. We were lucky in the group to have so many complimentary interests. Together we collaboarated on songs sung out on Sue’s boat. Our harmonies rolling out across the lagoon and competing with the storm that threatened to come in and shut down the gig.
I was more than happy to go to Sri Lanka and for it to work away subtly and not so subtly on my imagination. And that it did! I wanted to find ideas that I could bring back and continue to work on. There are things about the culture, history and ecology that Scotland needs to know about. Questions have been answered and curiosity has been awakened.
I have material for experimental film/documentary, concepts for audio visual installations, and music/songs that I am continuing to develop..ideas that keep burning and turning over in my mind. And something bigger – an installation and interactive performance that draws together my experience of Sri Lanka and in the mediums that I want to experiment with.
I am very grateful to have these concrete things even if there is more digging and contemplation to do. I have the gritty but welcome challenge now of how to realise them back home.
The joy of Sura Medura is you get that chance to see how you operate outside of your everyday circumstances – what fires up the imagination and what conditions set you free. In the interviews and research trips it was great for me to see what happens when you put the feelers out and reach out to people. And what happens when you open up to a new culture in general with the artists innate perspective. This gives me great faith in following up on this approach in the future. There are tools, attitudes and techniques that are going to stay with me.
It is hard to imagine a more beautiful place. I feel in the two months I only got a tiny sense of the full richness and depth of the culture. I was touched by the generosity, friendliness and the hopeful spirit of the people.
I feel such sorrow for Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday attacks. I am in complete solidarity with you as you struggle with this wound.
It feels vital now to keep the relationship going with the country, to keep the learning alive, to stay in touch with friends there.
Sri Lanka I love you. I will return.
Thank you to the people for welcoming me in and making me wiser. I hope someday to repay you for this gift.
SURA MEDURA – Projecton Experiments
Live drawing on ipad, pico projector direct on to palm and dried leafs @ Sura Medura – March 2019
SURA MEDURA – Beep beep
Impro jam with samples from Sri Lankan bus horns and radio
SURA MEDURA – Blog 2
March 13, 2019
IN TO THE NIGHT
I have always wanted to go a rainforest (a boyhood dream)..so Sinharaja national park was high on my list of Sri Lankan adventures. If I am going to talk about it in my work I need to understand what it is to stand in one and bear witness. Most of the forests n Scotland have been degraded by human hand ( though there are some notable exceptions!) and this is a place that is under threat from the gradual encroachment of rice paddies, tea plantations and unregulated tourist development. The ecosystem goes right back to Gondwana land – the huge ancient supercontinent.
I managed to convince my fellow artists to join me.
We were not disappointed. We combined it with a trip to Udawalawa national park. We all left buzzing having seen every kind of plant and animal imaginable – tree crab, owl, viper, elephant, toucan, crocodile, mongoose, sambhur dear, kangaroo lizard, peacocks, macaque & grey langar monkey, fruit bat, butterfly, 3 kind of giant eagles, leaches, giant spiders, a plant that ants live inside, minute and detailed treecreeper vines in bountiful explosion. The cicadas abruptly turn on and off, in a noisy shower of rain sweeping through the canopy.
I went out at late at night to record the nights sounds on the edge of the forest after winding up the mysterious roads in a thunder storm:
Because of everything
It’s breathing, together.
Firefly drop and dip
You roar in to the night
Spark and shudder
Call and response
Fairy light garland flashing under the eaves
A crazy scattering vital rhythm
I have been working late and Sura Medura when there is only me, the security guard and the adopted dog Hadi. It is a bit spooky at night here. I am interested in this fear and reverence for the natural world. Its mystery. Seeing flashes of distant lighting or hearing an odd bird call is a moment of private veneration.
Mocking up what I experienced in the rainforest I have joined some of the recorded and experimental sounds together with some abstract visuals and pointed the projector on to the palm trees, then hooking a bluetooth speaker in the branches. I set this off in a random digital chain that starts to make its own jungle polyrhythm.
The bamboo scaffold that I have been building (not my usual to be construction worker but it has been fun to bind it together with bits of found wood and coconut rope) I hope to place among this projection environment. A sort of fantasy piece of architecture.
I have been reflecting on how I’d like to develop this space as a sort of discussion tent where people could come in and reflect on climate change that could pop up anywhere. We need spaces like this! A blingey installation on the outside// a space for contemplation and healing on the inside.
On my cycle over I find the leafs of the breadfruit most fascinating. Some are big I can even wear them as a kind of costume. I have been using the iPad to live draw on to them. Picking out the veins. It reminds me of the lagoons, rivers and irritations channels I have observed here in Sri Lanka. With projection I can make the leafs vibrate with energy and they become sort of portals in to another dimension. After a few iterations this is beginning to shape up in to an installation.
SURA MEDURA – Road signs
I have become pretty obsessed about the road side signs on lamp posts advertising college courses. The colours and designs (often screen printed) – luminous, bright and very cool.
I am keen on letting them influence visual designs in abstraction and spin them out in to animation and print.
Och I just love them. They are gorgeous.
SURA MEDURA – Kandy
Experimental 3d design inspired by Kandy and sound https://vimeo.com/320206010
Kandy is situated right in the centre of the mountainous district of Sri Lanka . It is an ancient home for world Buddhism and a centuries old sit of pilgrimage.
I went on Sri Lankan National Day – February 4th with great crowds filtering and pushing through the temple.
I found the whole place very effecting having never been part of such a mass religious ceremony. The smell of purple lotus flowers held aloft. People buzzing with the hope of a momentary blessing bestowed from seeing the relic of the Buddha’s tooth in its sacred chamber. There is a deep sense of worship that emanates from the place and wraps you up in it.
In my search for a place to meditate in Sri Lanka I couldn’t work out where people stop to praise. In my initial visits to temples I was surprised to find there is not a a meditation hall. Commonly, there is a stupa, a statue room and at the centre a Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) lined with an octagonal wall (to reflect the Eight Fold Path) topped with gold/brass finials.
But it was Kandy in the outlying scattered shrines of Hindu and Buddhist origin that I found an ancient Bodhi tree with great steps up to it. An immense ritualistic space with fabric prayers tied to the branches. Peaceful – the anthesis of the rapture of the tooth temple.
I sat and watched people with their colourful plastic water pots make Puja and pouring to feed the tree. Such curious beautiful forms. Plastic and out of place – I felt compelled to create them in 3d.
And there, Sri Lankan’s silently blissfully meditating. Here I found my space. Barefoot and welcome, I entered a trance and I imagined the roots of the tree extending down and hugging the whole of the earth – connecting me, even to rainy Glasgow. I had a vision in my jetlagged state when I arrived of a tree extending roots around an egg but now the egg had morphed in to the earth. I really need to make an extended animation of this !As I reflected with a friend on whats app at the time: It is great to look at being British from the point of view here. We actually so rarely look within for answers. I now its my job but my culture does prevent this!
And that is the thing in the West – we are constantly projecting out busying ourselves with an ostentatious show of how well we are doing to try and have a foothold – we neglect the inner life and fail to put down roots. Not that the religious art of Buddhism or Hinduism isn’t showy, it is! But I see now the alignment it attempts to provoke.
Gathering around and worshiping trees at this time feels very sensible…
If I am to reflect on my true feelings about ecology in Sri Lanka then also why keep my spiritual separate from my art. Is it a British or western thing that spirituality is somehow a weak and unemperical way of looking at things? But it is arguably an ancient spiritual connection to the earth that we need at this time if we are going to understand and repair the damage we are wrecking.
It is the same for art in general. It is easy for me to get infatuated with the image, the superficial, the surface- to forget the roots that lie behind a creation. Like the buddha imagery it is not there to be idolised it is there to remind, to point within. The great well of infinity the void space that we can access at any time.
“The Bodhi Tree is the nickname of the species of the tree under which each Buddha awakens. All members of the ficus family lack “heartwood” or the hard inner pith found in most trees. The heart of the Bodhi tree is truly void. “