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Amidst uncertain times, artist taps into the darkness

Sri Lankan artist Jeetendra Marcelline’s works take their titles from acts and remnants of horror. Photo supplied
Sri Lankan artist Jeetendra Marcelline’s works take their titles from acts and remnants of horror. Photo supplied

Amidst uncertain times, artist taps into the darkness

A dark series of works incorporating pencil, charcoal, ink, photography, theatre and film opened at Constable Gallery at Large on November 5.

Jeetendra Marcelline’s Inferno continues the artist’s exploration of time and civilisation, myths and madness. 

Growing up in the midst of war-torn Sri Lanka, Marcelline taught himself his craft and has applied it to his understanding of the world, the conflicts that underpin it, and the choices that seemingly lead us there.

He is led by John Milton’s words in Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”.

Inferno is the second of two exhibitions – the first was titled Paradiso, and showcased in Vientiane – examining Buddhism and Christianity in the context of modern conflict. The pieces take their names from acts and remnants of horror, such as Holocaust, Nagasaki and Burning Monk.

The artist draws on a wide array of influences, texts, philosophers and poets including the Bible, Asvaghosa, Honen, Shinran, Dante, Arnold, Toynbee, Hess, Koyama and Boyce. 

“When faced with loss and death and when I found myself in a ‘dark wood’, as Dante wrote in The Divine Comedy, I turned to Buddhist and Christian scriptures and writings for guidance out of the darkness,” Marcelline says.

He first came to Cambodia in 2013, the first of several visits that have left their mark. “Year Zero was and is terrifying,” he says. “The belief that to control the future, it is important to erase and destroy the past; this underpinned the ethos of Hitler and the Third Reich, and perhaps the destruction of ancient cities [as with ISIS today].”

During a week of gross global uncertainty, the exhibition has taken on a greater pertinence. “The circumstances and policies that led to the rise of Pol Pot; such events, as is the case preceding most dictatorships or despots, appear to raise its ugly head even now. So, ‘never again?,’” the artist asks.

Marcelline, who lives between the Philippines and Laos, held his first exhibition, Proudly, in Manila in 2013. The next year, he was a participating artist at Cambodia’s Our City Festival in Siem Reap.  

Marelline’s Inferno is on at Constable Gallery at Large until November 30.

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