Art I Love: Anoli Perera’s Elastic Dress

An occasional series of posts on art which has impacted on me; art which has in some way encouraged other ways of ‘seeing’ and thinking about life and art.

Elastic Dress, 2010

Elastic Dress, 2010 by Anoli Perera, Leeds City Art Gallery 2010

I first encountered Anoli Perera’s work at the Between Kismet to Karma exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery in spring 2010. The exhibition examined the notion of conflict in its broadest sense as experienced by South Asian women artists from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but within a British context. Anoli Perera was one of the Sri Lankan artists, and her work was stunning. The Elastic Dress 2010 was the centrepiece of the main exhibition space, and justifiably gloried in its blazing dominance of the room.

Perera’s sculptures and installations make use of found and other materials, and in recent years she had been drawn to the idea of dress-making as a form of sculpture.  She has talked of the woman who weaves her ‘complex net of social, economic and cultural relationships around her’, and as a metaphor for this broad concept of the place of woman in society, with its intricately spider’s web woven textural construction, Elastic Dress both intrigued and delighted the eye.

But Elastic Dress was so much more. It dominated and flooded the room with a bright red blood-like aura, at first glance life-like and life-size, but transformed upon closer inspection into a massive, imposing, solid form despite the open fragility of its construction. But as an elastic form, it was capable of infinite adaptation to any shape or size of female form: it embraced all women, everywhere, and challenged conventional notions of beauty and size with skilful assurance. With its seemingly effortless simplicity of form and colour, I found it quite magnificent.

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