Blue Belle, from the "Atomizer" series - 2015.67.3_1_2015festaff


Blue Belle, from the "Atomizer" series

Maker: Frances Ferdinands (b. 1952)
Medium:acrylic paint on paper
Geography: Ontario, Canada
Date: 2015
38 x 28.5 cm
Object number: 2015.67.3
Not on view

This work is by Frances Ferdinands, a Toronto-based Canadian artist who was born in Sri Lanka. It is from her "Atomizer" series, a collection of paintings which plays on the similarities between the silhouettes of a hand grenade and an elegant vintage perfume atomizer. In addition to the visual similarities, the perfume spray serves as an analogy to the explosion caused by such a weapon. Combining aesthetic beauty and history, the works cleverly and poetically combine references from historical Sri Lankan decorative art alongside meanings that resonate with issues of inequality, injustice, and the exploitation of natural resources during Sri Lanka’s colonial past.

"Blue Belle" references the name given to the 400-carat Blue Sapphire found in a Ceylonese paddy field in 1926 and ending in the possession of a British Lord in 1937. Another, the misnamed 500 carat "Star of India" resides in the American Museum of Natural History.

The series is also a reference to the contemporary history of the Sri Lankan Civil War, an armed conflict that took place 1983-2009 between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The analogy of a grenade with perfume is startling, perhaps even disturbing, and yet there is a poetic quality about it. Both are invasive in their own way, changing one’s perception of the world around them in their destructive or sense-filling qualities. It is an analogy that works in an oddly successful way. In this way, the artist states, "I wanted to create beauty within an object of mass destruction. I also wanted to reference the place of beauty within the intersection of war, religion, and commerce throughout history." While grounded in painting practice, Frances Ferdinands’ works combine colour and shapes that have religious and historical significance with the visual language of modern abstraction. Her more recent work has evolved into a multi-media format embracing three-dimensionality, installation, and performance. In all Ferdinands' work, there is some visual or conceptual connection to Sri Lanka, both its contemporary reality and its historical past.

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