1Archt. Tilak Samarawickrema held an exhibition of contemporary woven art at the Gallery Art Motif, F-213C, Lado Sarai  in New Delhi. The exhibition was on for two and a half weeks from April 1st 2011 to April 17th 2011. The Hindu Metro Plus of 9thApril 2011 carried an article from which this extract is taken.

Sri Lankan artist Tilak Samarawickrema’s art holds out promise of new frontiers to Dumbara, the ancient weaving technique of his land. While the old Dumbara craft technique used in his wall hangings reminds the viewer of the ancient traditions still in practice in the island nation, the works are equally specimens of contemporary art, drawing imagery from the artist’s immediate environment, including mural paintings, temples and mandalas, and other facets of his life as an architect — facades of buildings and windows fill up the wall hangings.

The spirited artist, designer and architect rescued the waning weave of Thalagune Udu-Dumbara, the oldest weaving village in Kandy in Sri Lanka by inducing freshness to it. He chanced upon Dumbara mat weaving in the ‘90s, when he was invited to set up a design unit, Rapid Crafts Development Programme — whose two-fold purpose was reviving the vanishing crafts and improving the technical skills of the craftspeople and designs. But the long-term engagement with Dumbara began only after Tilak returned to his land for good after spending 12 years in Italy. After finally locating the village Thalagune Udu-Dumbara, the versatile artist embarked on collaboration with a weaver family in the village. Tilak gave them designs drawn on a grid sheet, and the weaver family transposed them on household products apt for any modern living room.

These wall-hangings have also resulted from the joint effort. While the traditional patterns laid emphasis on floral motifs, Tilak borrowed from his area of interest, mainly architecture. Strong lines, triangles, windows, repetitive geometrical shapes in warm, bright yellows, reds and oranges have depth. “The work in the exhibition spans from 1990 and it has really evolved since then. It has become minimalistic and more structured,” says Tilak. Shedding light on the technique, he says each piece has used 220 cotton threads. “What makes this technique special is that it is embroidered directly on the loom.,” he adds.

Tilak, besides providing designs on a computerised grid sheet, also supplies the master weaver Sirisena and his family the yarn and dye.

Tilak and other craft enthusiasts and agencies are engaged in restoring the vibrancy to the heritage weave. The tapestries and other weave inspired household products created by Tilak and his team are not only sold in high-end stores in the island nation but were sold at the swish MOMA design store in New York for eight years.

The architect has worked in Guatemala as a consultant to UNICEF where he worked with  Mayan Indian weavers to design products to be marketed in UNICEF stores worldwide.