Ranjit Fernando was an eminent figure related to the ‘43 Group, a collective of artists from 1940s Sri Lanka, who contributed to the visual art landscape of the country through the interrogation of politics, society and culture rooted in a larger commitment to promoting a modernism informed by their specific sociocultural location.
Fernando’s artistic peer Neville Weeraratne refers to him as a connoisseur who was always drawn to “assiduous study of such topics as the philosophy of art and religion, seemingly esoteric subjects”. The trajectory along which his relationship with art progressed throughout the years manifests Weeraratne’s claim with much dynamism. Although handicapped due to an early childhood illness, Fernando did not let this affect his passion for the arts. His initial exhibitions held in the UK during the early 1950s were mainly landscapes painted in symmetry characterized by vibrant colour bringing about calmness for the soul of the beholder. He was a believer in the ideology that art should result in emotional tranquility and had an innate aim for audience gratification embedded in his work.
Fernando, although not a core member of the ‘43 Group, often exhibited his art with them, and played a key role in facilitating international exhibitions of their work. He successfully organised exhibitions in Venice (at the Venice Biennale), London, Cambridge, Paris and the Sao Paolo Biennale in Brazil, which drew attention from renowned art critics of the time such as John Berger, Maurice Collis and Myfanwy Piper. One such exhibition was a solo exhibition showcasing the works of Justin Deraniyagala at the Beaux Arts Gallery in 1954. Another exhibition of the ‘43 Group held at the Petit Palais culminated in the acquiring of two paintings by Ivan Peries and Richard Gabriel for the permanent collection of the gallery. Fernando thus provided critical side support for the core members of the ‘43 Group to receive recognition globally for their locally acclaimed work.
Fernando’s interests in the 1980s and 1990s were drawn to religious unity in Sri Lanka, and the role played by Ananda Coomaraswamy in relation to the subject. Keeping the growing ethnic conflict in the country in mind, Fernando edited two publications on the subject in the late 1990s, namely Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of The Perennial Philosophy and The Unanimous Tradition: Essays on the Essential Unity of All Religions. These volumes of collected essays entered the discourse of religion and spirituality, emphasizing a necessary unity, a “unanimous tradition” between all religions and types of traditional societies with unique characteristics that define them. Through his writing and continued philosophical engagements with art, Fernando contributed to the growth of the traditionalist philosophy and its application to Sri Lanka as introduced by Coomaraswamy and Rene Guenon, highlighting the significance of religion, tradition and convention in relation to reconciliation and peace-building strategies
|Name of Exhibition||Year||Place|
|-||1952||Heffer Gallery, Cambridge, UK|
|-||1952||Robin Nance’s Gallery, London, UK|
|-||1951||Montage Gallery, London, UK|
|Name of Book||Year of Publication||Author||Printer|
|Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of The Perennial Philosophy (Ed.)||2000||Sri Lanka Institute of Traditional Studies|
|The Unanimous Tradition: Essays on the Essential Unity of All Religions (Ed.)||1991||Sri Lanka Institute of Traditional Studies|
Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in