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Nurturing the lightness of being: The art of looking at art

Have you ever paused to consider the thoughts and emotions that surface when you stand before a captivating artwork? What stories do these creations whisper to you, and can you truly hear and feel them?

© Nuwan Nalaka at Saskia Fernando Gallery

In a world increasingly shaped by facts and figures, as eloquently emphasized by Byung-Chul Han in his recent essay, these questions take on a profound significance. Han's insights underscore a narrative crisis, where our existence is often dictated by a generation, 'phono sapiens,' enamored with fragmented storytelling — reduced to single images, random snapshots, and predetermined concepts all ultimately crafted to nothing more than commercial gain. Within this narrative upheaval, one cannot help but wonder, where has the enchantment of genuine creativity vanished? There are moments when a disconcerting sensation creeps over us, suggesting that even the realm of art has succumbed to the relentless pursuit of profit, overshadowing the essence of storytelling and creativity. It's a stark realization that is weighing down.


Against this backdrop, this serves as the perfect catalyst for an experiment reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland: The art of looking at art.

Art for art’s sake:

Dare you take the first bite of the metaphorical mushroom? Will it magnify or diminish your perception? What transformative effect will art have on you?

To embark on this journey, refrain from fixating on the name or title of the artwork. Disregard any preconceived notions that may arise, and simply immerse yourself in the piece with all its colorful beauty. Can you discern its voice? Perhaps, it requires a moment of silent contemplation before the art begins to talk to you. What narrative does the oeuvre unfold? Where does it take you, both in space and time? Does it offer a contextual framework for your thoughts? Feel free to traverse your inner landscape, ride the currents of ideas, connect with your emotions, and unearth the source of it all. It could be a memory, a theory, or simply a visceral feeling. Break free from the burdens and let the lightness of your imagination carry you away. Enjoy shaping, reshaping, and honing your taste.


Art for fact’s sake:

Do you prefer the instruction leaflet for looking at art? What will the name of the artist tell you and the title of the artwork itself?

This approach involves a calculated engagement, where facts and figures mold your thoughts. By adhering to a safe anticipation, you willingly subject yourself to a pre-approved framework that navigates towards well-established information, anchoring your experience in the dimensions of art history. Within this structured conception, links are swiftly drawn to existing knowledge, and familiar information expands your perception, allowing you to grasp a broader picture. Immersing yourself in the analyses provided by curators or art historians may evoke a profound sense of understanding, potentially leading to feelings of awe and amazement. All these elements coalesce, seamlessly integrating the artwork into a financial dimension, offering a perspective that aligns with established parameters and conventional value.


In the dichotomy between the visceral allure of artistic seduction and the structured confines of a facts-driven perspective, the lightness of being emerges as an elusive essence. As we exceed the confines of facts and information, immersing ourselves in the realm of the sensual, we unfurl our imagination and rediscover the fleeting lightness that resides within us.

Yours truly,


A&P Sidenote: Nuwan Nalaka, born in 1981 in Sri Lanka, demonstrates remarkable versatility across various mediums, including tempera, watercolors, Indian ink, and wash painting. His art explores themes of Buddhist and Hindu philosophy through a blend of visual metaphors, iconography, and floral elements, drawing inspiration from the folk and traditional styles of both India and Sri Lanka. Nuwan seamlessly navigates between calligraphic, bold brush strokes and intricately detailed work, showcasing a rich visual style. We discovered his works at the Saskia Fernando Gallery in Colombo.

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