I touched down at Bandaranayake International Airport on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on the fifteenth of February 2015, officially kicking off the first leg of the Three Oceans Project.
I have been coming to Sri Lanka since 1998 and spent a number of years (2004/8) living for five to six months per season on the south coast. Since this period, I have been back a couple of times but for only for a few weeks on each occasion. For this reason and many more, I was very excited to be back in the country I love for the far more agreeable term of three months.
As I have stated, I am no novice with regards to Sri Lanka and having made a fairly significant number of works here before thought I knew what to expect and had made the necessary arrangements… I was wrong. Sri Lanka has always been the kind of place that you love and that drives you mad in equal measure. Some days it is the best place on earth; others make you want to leave and never come back. So it has proven with this trip.
I knew that the best bet was to bring the majority (if not all) of my art materials with me. I left a few things in the hope that I may be able to get a substitute, but had a contingency in place if not. Upon arrival in Colombo I checked out a couple of the art supply stores I had been researching online and was not surprised to find I couldn’t really get what I wanted. I have managed to find a few things I can use but my search for stretcher bars came up empty. As it turns out I have since located a carpenter living and working in the jungle only a ten minute walk from my house. We have struck up a rapport and I can now order custom frames through him that are ready the next day. They are beautifully handmade and embarrassingly cheap.
While this turned out to be a great result, the carpenter organising these things takes time and time is a luxury I can ill afford. From the day I arrived in Sri Lanka I had eleven weeks until the opening of the exhibition in Colombo… this is not a lot of time! Because of the ethos of the project, all of the work for each location must be made at that location, meaning I could not begin making the specific works before I arrived. While this is a tight deadline I know if I work hard there is enough time to produce a quality exhibition, what I had not foreseen however, were the problems and delays I would face when anything needed to be done on the computer.
Before heading over to Sri Lanka I had been in touch with a local friend of mine who ran an internet café just around the corner from my place. I wanted to check that he had Photoshop etc. as I didn’t want to bring the new laptop over for so long; the heat and humidity has a tendency to ruin electronic equipment. Nishan assured me that everything was fine and I did not have to worry. Unfortunately, when I arrived the shop was closed, had been for some time by the look of it, and of course Nishan was nowhere to be seen. No computer.
I eventually tracked Nishan down and he lent me a laptop. This would have been great if: A) it had not been so riddled with viruses that I could actually use it, or, B) the ‘wifi’ at my place actually worked. Needless to say the first few weeks were extremely trying at times, especially as one of the key components of the work I am making for the project relies upon me sending rather large files on the internet. This proved extremely difficult, even after compressing and zipping the files, and would have been impossible had my darling wife Bianca not arrived in Sri Lanka to save the day! She brought the laptop and a level head to the situation, two things I did not possess. Even with her computer wizardry it took four days to send a file containing one image where ordinarily it would take thirty minutes to send four images.
Although there have been trying times there have also been great times. It is always a pleasure to catch up with old friends, both local and returning tourists, as is sampling the wonderful food on a daily basis. I have managed to catch some great waves in between long stints in the studio and am excited about the work I am producing. With any luck I am over the hump and have dealt with the majority of difficulties and road blocks for this trip. As I write this, I have five more weeks until the first exhibition of the Three Oceans Project opens at Saskia Fernando gallery… watch this space… and wish me luck.
– Scott Gardiner, April 2015