Barefoot

Since 1964

When George Beven created the painting 21st of April 1987, it was his response to the slaughter of the innocent, by a minority feeling excluded from the majority policies, and the group‘s distorted view of the world. Little did he know then that 32 years later, another attack on the innocent, on the very same day, would make his work not dated but current.

The painting at the time (1987), inspired Wolfgang Stange to create a video performance with Students of the Chitra Lane School and Young actors from the Somalatha Subasinghe Youth Theatre.

Students discussed the painting and the pain of surviving family members, who were suddenly robbed of their loved ones. The pain was particularly felt by members of the Negombo community, as the bomb went off near the Negombo bus stand in the Pettah and now 32 years on, in the Katuwapitiya Church in Negombo.

The painting depicts the grieving of Negombo Fisher women, over a dead child‘s body surrounded by white coffins, embodying the petals of the white temple flowers.

Seven decades of the work of the Sri Lankan artist George Beven for his 90th Birthday. George’s talent was first spotted by his school teacher Mrs Jayawardena at Newstead who submitted his drawings for competitions. Later at Maris Stella College he sent some of his drawings to Lake House, who promptly offered him a job at the newspaper. He had to tell them that he was sitting for his examinations and could not come. “Finish your schooling and then come, we keep the job open for you.” So George was the first paid artist apart from Colette who did the political cartoons.

From illustrating stories for the Daily Observer which included fashion drawings. The newspaper directed George to the Hayward School of Art, where his most influential teacher was David Paynter in particular the Study of the male body. David Paynter in turn was influenced by his teacher Glyn Philpot.

One can trace a direct line of the three artists in their pursuit of perfecting painting of the male body.

Beven is a figurative Painter and on the rare occasion went into abstract paintings. He prefers to interpret what he sees in front of him, in his often, very unconventional colours. His portraits are often disturbing as he seems to go deep inside of his sitters. His monotone period, his toothbrush paintings, of the 70s, 80s and 90s, had as subjects, mainly famous artists of the time – Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Michel Barishnikov from the classical Ballet who, all signed their portraits. Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, her daughter Liza Minelli, Marilyn Monroe from Film and Musicals and actors like James Dean and Sylvestor Stallone. The most recognised one is of course Her Royal Highness – Princess Margaret – who’s Portrait by Beven was hanging in Kensington Palace, during her life time. Beven was not only interested in the known and the famous, but loved capturing ordinary people. At his first exhibition of his then portraits, in the monotone style in Colombo in 1980, depicted Negombo and Tricomalee fisher men as well as Tambili sellers on the road or residents of the Negombo and Mount Lavinia Cheshire Homes. The monotone (toothbrush Paintings) were executed by spraying Indian ink from a toothbrush onto cartridge paper covering part of the paper with the free hand. Being physically in touch with the paints or ink. It was almost similar to the use of his fingers for his oil paintings of the 50s.

At that time he had no money for brushes and put the oil paints straight onto rush mats or hard board. Some of these early paintings are in this retrospective exhibition.

Barefoot Gallery serves as a platform for artists, musicians, poets, and filmmakers

The Colombo Gallery was begun by Barbara Sansoni in 1967 and had its home in Anderson Road in a building designed by Ulrik Plesner. The Colombo Gallery became Gallery 706 and that became the BAREFOOT GALLERY in the mid-nineties, which serves as a platform for artists, musicians, poets, and filmmakers in Colombo.