Justin Daraniyagala : an exhibition of paintings [and] drawings
Beaux Arts Gallery, London, 13 January - 6 February 1954
Introduction by Maurice Collis
There have been two mother cultures in further Asia, the Hindu and the Chinese. Of the two, the Hindu has shown itself the more potent. In this country we have preferred Chinese art. The poetic vision of its best paintings and the vigour of their line, the sumptuousness of its ceramics, its jades and lacquers, have enormously appealed to us. But there is nothing in Chinese art to equal the broad humanity and strength of classical Hindu painting, sculpture and architecture. In comparison, Chinese art is stylised, dry, quaint and over elegant.
Chinese art did not spread beyond its own borders except to Japan. Hindu art, however, fecundated the whole of Further India; the arts of Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Java, Champa, Bali and other vast areas, all spring from Hindu art. Not only so, but Chinese Bhuddist art, a very important section of that country 's aesthetic creation, derives from it. (One must remember that classical Hindu art is both Brahminical and Buddhist.)
Hindu art, being essentially humanistic and emotional as well as religious and transcendental, has been robust enough to absorb foreign inﬂuences without doing itself harm. In its early period it drew from the Persia of Darius, from the Greeks of the Dispersion and from the Romans. Even the conquest of India a thousand years later by the Moslems was not fatal. The schools of hill painting (so well represented in the Victoria and Albert Museum) were stimulated by the Moghul Court. What, however, was nearly fatal (or fatal for a time) was the European armed occupation of the whole of the Hinduised East. In the 19th century, European art was at a low level. A vulgar aspect of its academicism was presented to conquered Asia by the foreign civil servants and merchants who ruled it as the art of a superior civilisation.
With the recent restoration of Asia 's political liberty has also come the restoration of its artistic liberty. The urgent problem that confronts all the former colonial possessions there is how to rehabilitate their arts. Their artists are addressing themselves to the solution of this problem. As pointed out, Ceylon is a part of the ancient Hindu world. What London is now witnessing is an attempt by a group of Ceylonese artists to lead the way in the revival of Hindu art. They are giving three simultaneous exhibitions: George Keyt 's at the institute of Contemporary Arts; an exhibition at the A.I.A. in which several of the artists join; and Justin Daraniyagala 's here at the Beaux Arts. All these artists have recently been shown as a united group at the Petit Palais in Paris and were well received by the French critics.
Mr. Daraniyagala is a mature artist; he is ﬁfty years of age. Conscious that the Ceylon of today is not only the child of its Hindu tradition but also a member of a world society, he has set himself to create a style which reﬂects both these fundamental truths. Of the several main styles now current in the world, Mr. Daraniyagala has found Expressionism most suitable for his purpose. He manipulates its possibilities with grace and power. I venture to assert that there is no Expressionist painter in England today who is his equal in craftsmanship or whose mood is so bold and various. He has humour, tenderness, gaiety and strong feeling. He is human and fantastic, simple and extravagant. His colour is clean, his textures rich, his impastos vivacious – in short, his aim has great quality. His handling is continually that of a master. A magistral personality emerges from his canvases.
London by recognising his talents will aid a liberated Asia to rehabilitate for the modern world an art tradition whose potentialities are illimitable.