Rare powerful Sri Lankan sculpture

Image below shows (with close up details) of a rare powerful piece of non religious public sculpture in Sri Lanka. Rare in that it is NOT embarrassing to look at. It actually communicates a human emotion that touches a suspicious nut like me who is sceptical about everything — including cynicism.

Non religious monumental art in Sri Lanka is generally disappointing and almost always embarrassing. Usually it is a bad pompous imitation of something that just outside the reach of recollection. A typical example are those out of proportion statues of soldiers on plinths. They look like bad enlargements of plastic toy soldiers that melted in the sun. The fiendish green applied to make the cement look like aged bronze amplifies the plastic look.  Another monumental style is bass beliefs aping the Picasso-esque style of the late George Kyet. The result is tired unconvincing, institutional and dehumanised visual clutter that people block out – like online banner ads. The kind of crap that was lathered on the decorations of government sponsored events during my school days.

This sculpture by contrast tells a story. From the reliefs on the base it looks like train disaster — most likely a collision of a bus and a train (not infrequent in Sri Lanka). It stands at the rail crossing where the A6 crosses the North bound rail track at a confusing angle. I cann’t remember the exact spot but I think it is the place of the 2005 rail crossing disaster at Polgahawela. If anyone else knows the actual details please do add them in a comment.

The most poignant element of the sculpture is the lonely figure. It sits in moaning above the crowded details of the event. The drooping stalk like thing amplifies the figure’s emotions. The human like details in the stalk that seem to commune with the seated figure. I think it is the most visual powerful expression of loss I have ever seen on a public sculpture in Sri Lanka. Then again, you may not agree which is fine with me. But enough with words. I’l ket the picture do the talking.

Rail disaster monument, Sri Lanka


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