Celebrating Geoffrey Bawa
Channa Daswatte, Barbara Sansoni, Laki Senanayake, Ena de Silva, Dayanita Singh
Exhibition dates: October 24 - November 24, 2019
Opening reception: Thursday, October 24, 6–8pm

Press Release

Callicoon Fine Arts is pleased to present Celebrating Geoffrey Bawa, a hybrid pop-up shop and exhibition dedicated to the celebrated Sri Lankan architect on the occasion of his centennial and organized in collaboration with the Geoffrey Bawa Trust.

The project is on view from October 24 to November 24 and includes drawings by Channa Daswatte, batiks and tapestries by Ena de Silva and Laki Senanayake, textiles by Barbara Sansoni and “Box 507”, Dayanita Singh’s tribute to Bawa. Selected objects, some of which were inspired by or produced in collaboration with Bawa, have been formerly installed in his Kandalama Hotel in Sri Lanka, and are being shown in New York for the first time.

Bawa envisioned narratives unfolding in space as he designed his buildings, merging the surrounding landscape with the interior. In this exhibition, Dayanita Singh’s book-object, Box 507, contains 30 image cards in a teak wood enclosure that can be hung on the wall or stood on a table. The images present Bawa interiors in abstracted form, alluding to the shapes and movement in the spaces of Bawa's architecture.

Bawa worked with Sri Lankan artists that could relate to his awareness of site and context. Artist Laki Senanayake, for instance, produced unique works for Bawa’s buildings over the course of forty years. Senanayake joined forces with Ena de Silva in the 1960s, producing drawings and botanical designs for De Silva’s fabrics. De Silva revitalized the art of batiks in Sri Lanka; she created tablecloths, canopies, flags, wall panels, and furnishings for Bawa’s interiors. Selected wall hangings and napkins depicting geometric designs, and Senanayake’s hornbill motif, will be available at the gallery.

Bawa also collaborated with Barbara Sansoni of Barefoot, today a leading textile producer based in Sri Lanka. Her handwoven fabrics are prominently featured on couches, beds, chairs, and tables throughout Bawa’s projects. Channa Daswatte, an artist and architect who served as the final partner at Bawa’s firm, has reproduced two of his drawings, shown here, for Bawa’s Kandalama Hotel project. In addition Celebrating Geoffrey Bawa will include a folio of eight chairs, each designed by Bawa and drawn by Daswatte’s studio. The folio itself is presented in a Sansoni fabric that matches the Barefoot rugs and pillow covers that also will also be on view.

Geoffrey Bawa (1919–2003) was a Sri Lankan architect and the principal force behind what is today know globally as “tropical modernism.” Bawa arrived at architecture through landscape design in his late-thirties, following a brief career in law, and studied at the Architectural Association in Britain. His union of modernity, historical memory, and design became a beacon of regional architecture. While Colombo was the center of his professional and personal life, he earned commissions for private homes there and elsewhere, including India, the Maldives, Indonesia, and Fiji. He was also recruited for local projects including hotels, banks, a police station, schools, a train station, and Sri Lanka’s Parliament Building. His work was recognized by a civil honor award by the Sri Lankan government, earning him the title Deshamanya, meaning “highly meritorious service”. He was also awarded an Aga Khan chairman’s award for a lifetime contribution to architecture.

Channa Daswatte (b. 1965, Colombo, Sri Lanka) is Program Advisor for Bawa 100 and founder of MICD Associates in Sri Lanka. He was the last partner of Geoffrey Bawa’s firm after joining in 1991. Channa is the Chairperson of the Galle Heritage Foundation and has worked on a number of architectural, conservation, and curatorial projects including Corridors of Power, an installation most recently included in the Dhaka Art Summit 2018. Channa authored and edited Sri Lanka Style (2005) and has written for publications including A+U and Sri Lanka Institute of Architect’s Journal. He is a trustee of the Lunuganga Trust and Chairperson of the Geoffrey Bawa Trust.

Ena de Silva (1922–2015) was a self-taught textile artist with a deep interest in botany, responsible for revitalizing hand-painting and the batik technique in Sri Lanka. In 1960 she started Ena de Silva Fabrics with Laki Senanayake, Ani Jayasuriya, and Reggie Siriwardena. She established the Matale Heritage Centre in her childhood home of Aluwihare in the 1980s. There, she trained locals in carpentry, needlework, brass foundry, and batik production. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Geoffrey Bawa Trust in 2011. 

Barbara Sansoni (b. 1928, Kandy, Sri Lanka) is an artist and conservationist who began designing cloth in the early 1960s. Barefoot, her design studio and weaving workshop, was inaugurated in 1958 and remains the most well-known textile brand in Sri Lanka. In 1970, Sansoni was awarded a Rockefeller Grant that she used to travel to fourteen countries over two years. Subsequently, she set up several weaving centers in Sri Lanka, training and employing local people to realize her designs. Her achievements have been recognized by the Zonta Woman of Achievement award (1987), the Kala Suri Award from the President of Sri Lanka (2005), and the Geoffrey Bawa Award for contributions to architecture (2011).

Laki Senanayake (b. 1937, Madampe, Sri Lanka) is a self-taught artist and has collaborated with Bawa on over forty sculptures, drawings, paintings, gardens, prints, batiks, and murals. In 1979, he designed a full set currency notes for Sri Lanka based on species endemic in the region. The Greedy Forest, Senanayake’s first retrospective, was curated by Max Moya first at Barefoot in 2019 and then at for No. 5 at Lununganga 2019. He currently lives in Dambulla in Diyabubula, a living “eco-sculpture” that he began designing in 1975. Senanayake also runs Botanica, a landscape consultancy firm with Noel Dias. 

Dayanita Singh (b. 1961, New Delhi, India) is an artist working with photography and the book. She studied at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, and at the International Center of Photography in New York. She has published twelve books, and, more recently, five book-objects. Singh has had solo exhibitions at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt (2014); Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (2014); and Hayward Gallery, London (2013). Notable group exhibitions include the 57th Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Kochi Biennale, Delhi, India (2014, 2018); the 55th Venice Biennale (German pavilion, 2013); the Guangzhou Triennial, China (2012); the 54th Venice Biennale (ILLUMInations, 2011); and Manifesta 7, Bolzano, Italy (2008). The International Center of Photography awarded her the 2018 Infinity Award for her book, Museum Bhavan (2017). This year, she is participating in Surrounds: 11 Installations, Museum of Modern Art, New York; and In the Company of Artists: 25 Years of Artists-in-Residence, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

image: Laki Senanayake, 93 x 47 inches

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Callicoon Fine Arts is located at 49 Delancey Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 6:30pm. The nearest subway stops are the B and D trains at Grand Street and the F, J, M and Z trains at Delancey-Essex Street. Contact: Photi Giovanis, info@callicoonfinearts.com, 212-219-0326 for further information.