Azara Jaleel

Barbara Sansoni is one of Sri Lanka’s foremost art legacies, whose inimitable works reflect her imaginative prowess. Her drawings epitomize sublime beauty, charms of the bygone and the distinct exquisiteness of the Sri Lankan heritage, and its people. In celebrating her impeccable aesthetic pursuits, the selected drawings of Barbara Sansoni published in this visual edition of ARTRA Magazine characterize vigour and wonderment, whilst depicting the spirited temperament and the profound depth of the artist’s mind.

Every featured drawing in this edition of ARTRA Magazine, has been prudently selected for its unique esoteric. They capture the artist’s astute play of colour and geometry, wit and humour, along with her adoration for picturesque buildings across the island. These drawings that are spread across the magazine are a testimony to the artist’s fervent desire to celebrate the ordinary from simple homes of fine proportions to cartoon drawings and pictorial tales of the feisty and fascinating cats, ‘Missy Fu’ and ‘Tikkiri Banda’. A stimulating purveyor of authentic beauty in any form or creation, Barbara Sansoni’s works of art reflect her acute curiosity and highly personalized relationship with the subject matter. What you will witness as you turn each page on this edition of the magazine, dear reader, is that each selected drawing invokes a sense of vitality to life, while bringing forth the stately in simplicity, the comedy in verse and the splendour in symmetry.

In compiling content for this edition of the magazine, we conversed extensively with Barbara’s immediate family and friends, who are revered art personalities in their own right, of whom one was Laki Senanayake. Staying true to his wickedly humorous  personality, Laki shared many accounts of his time with Barbara Sansoni at the adult art class at the Melbourne Art School, few days before his passing. He admired Barbara’s cartoon drawings of Missy Fu very much as he felt that her style of drawing enhanced the magical narratives further. In my search of these drawings, amongst many others, I met with C. Anjalendran, who shares a very close kinship with Barbara Sansoni, for a broader understanding of her journey as an artist. In-between readings and having Kumar’s famous cheese toasts and sips of cinnamon tea at Anjalendran’s home, the riveting conversations led to a greater perspective and context to her architectural drawings along with the artist’s remarkable understanding and execution of color. Significantly, Anjalendran’s dossiers of Barbara Sansoni proved to be a great asset as they stored a wealth of insights and information, including newspaper cuttings of Barbara Sansoni’s column of stories for children published under the nom-de-plume of ‘Claude’. The dossiers included many of the ‘Missy Fu’ cartoon drawings published in the 1960s that complemented the children stories in the Ceylon Daily Mirror. 

In compiling this edition, I also had the pleasure of many sit-downs and long chats with Dominic Sansoni, which was a lot of fun. These conversations that took place at his home and Barefoot Café helped immensely in receiving intimate knowledge and a sound understanding to Barbara Sansoni and her works. Going through countless works of the artist with her endearing son to compile this special collection of drawings for the magazine, was a delightful experience that contributed significantly to this edition. We are immensely grateful to Dominic Sansoni, for sharing his time, thoughts and photographs for this edition to ensure its cohesive representation of Barbara Sansoni’s artistic consciousness with warmth and benevolence. We are also deeply grateful to C. Anjalendran, Laki Senanayake, Nazreen Sansoni and Ronald Lewcock for their time and sharing their valued opinions and experiences of the artist for this special edition of ARTRA Magazine. 

I have been fascinated by Barbara Sansoni’s versatile creative pursuits and distinctive esoteric across her works for time immemorial. In my opinion, her artistry brings forth whimsical embodiments of a Sri Lankan consciousness, be it the ethereal line drawings of aesthetically astute buildings, the  rapture enveloped upon facial features or the grandeur encapsulated in geometric finesse. Barbara Sansoni presents a truly enchanting introspection to the omnipresence of beauty and vitality, and it is the combination of these characteristics within her works that reflect the imaginative prowess of her artistic quests that transmit Barbara Sansoni’s vigour for life, as an enchanting experience.


10th July, 2021 Visual Art | Conceptual