The Information Needed
When we started with this unique project it was not clear how long it would take, what the difficulties would be and what the final outcome would look like. Quite some time was spent on research and proper preparation: making small sketches and calculating the composition with the help of the Golden Mean formula
The Golden Mean needed to be utilized, as perspective and anatomy are important concepts of the western renaissance art that we wanted to blend with the splendid decorative values of Kandyan art. Furthermore, we needed to work with the local community to collect important information; this also helped to create a collaborative relationship. Some of the people who made the project a success are mentioned below:
Mr Cyril Kulapathi, traditional temple painter and Sri Lanka’s most famous restorer of murals, gave us important information about the measurements of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and depictions of Buddha, both important elements in the murals. For us this was interesting, since the measurements he gave were suitable for flat, decorative abstractions only. Hence, we had to translate these into perspective using the rules of the Golden Mean.
Monk M. Kalyanitissa Nayaka Maho Thero gave us a great deal of input regarding what he would like to see on the walls. He explained many details about the life of Buddha and the symbols commonly associated with Buddhism. However, maybe the most beautiful and valuable experiences with Mr. Kalyanitissa were our lunches together, when we were able to discuss various issues which he translated for us into Buddhist stories, which were a great inspiration for painting the murals.
Indura, the teacher of a dance group from Galle, checked all the dancers painted on the wall to ascertain whether the position of the hands, legs, feet etc. were correct. Sometimes we had to deviate from the original dance positions, but only if this was necessary for the overall composition. Most of the painted dancers, however, are directly taken from the Kandy dances. Indura taught us a lot about the meanings of the different animals in Buddhism, and how they are represented in the dances.
As well as these three inspiring teachers many others shared their knowledge and expertise with us. We learnt about their musical instruments, their beautiful low country clothing and dances, the differences in food, traditions, and lifestyles. We tried to give all these elements a place in the murals of the temple. We worked with more than 70 peoples and all are depicted in the mural.
The two mural topics together with Ven. Kalyanitissa are:
- The Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic
- The Donation of the Bodhi Tree by Ashoka to Princess Sanghamitta
Portraits of traditional Kandy dancers are painted (like a perahera or procession) around the depictions of these stories.