Thilak Samarawicrema
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Consultant National Design Center Sri Lanka 1986-1987

By Late Reggie Siriwardana - Sri Lankan Intellectual

When Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote his monumental work, Medieval Sinhalese Art in 1907, the task, as he saw it, was to preserve the traditions of indigenous handicraft, to save the heritage of a society of the past in which art and labour had gone hand in hand…
When I visited the newly established Designs unit of the National Design Center and looked around at the collection of handicrafts that were being assembled for the present exhibition, I was struck, to begin with, by the fact that there was not a single object that could be considered ugly or lacking in taste. Even if that had been all I could have found to say in favour of the units productions, that would still have been an achievement, considering one’s normal experience of handicraft shops which I have already described.
That, however, was only the beginning. Further observation and examination of the collection revealed a wealth of beauty, invention and imagination. Brass bowls, pots, heppuvas and other objects with simple unornamented or sparsely ornamented surfaces so as to foreground the inherent beauty of the shapes. Lacquered articles with areas of plain colour in harmony and contrast. Mats of the traditional dumbara weave but with large patterned areas and with colours departing widely from the weaver’s customary range. These are just three examples of the fruitful marriage of tradition and innovation which is characteristic of the spirit which the design unit, under Tilak Samarawickrema’s Artistic direction, has brought to its under taking.

   
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