Cedric De Silva : An Appreciation by the George Keyt Foundation

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On behalf of The George Keyt Foundation, it is only apt that we say a few words in appreciation of the tremendous effort that Mr Cedric De Silva, together with his wife Sita, has done to establish The George Keyt Foundation and to bring it to where it is today – recognised as one of the premier organisations of the art world in Sri Lanka. The George Keyt Foundation was established in 1988 to promote Sri Lankan art.

Cedric and Sita, together with Ian Goonatilleke and Prof. S. B. Dissanayake, all of whom were close friends of George Keyt, together with others of their ilk, decided to establish an organistion to promote the works of our emerging and hitherto unknown artists.

While the ‘43 Group had already established itself both locally and internationally, there were many young aspiring artists who had nowhere to go to and no way of promoting their work even locally other than to hire a hall and invite a small circle of friends to view their work.

Cedric and his mates decided that something needed to be done to correct this situation and so The George Keyt Foundation was established with the primary objective of promoting our local artistic talent. Named after George Keyt, a personal friend of the early trustees and whose name was already well established to attract art connoisseurs, the Foundation’s task was in no way meant to promote Keyt’s work.

In fact, the Foundation, while hosting works of international standing including the “South Asian Art Exhibition of Paintings” to coincide with the SAARC conference in 1991, and the exhibition ”Modern Sri Lanka Painters” to coincide with the Sri Lanka EXPO in 1992, has hosted only three exhibitions of Keyt’s work to coincide with significant events in the artist’s life.

With its objective of providing opportunities for emerging artists to show their talents, The George Keyt Foundation has held several presentations over the years, including the annual ‘Kala Pola’ open air art fair, the ‘Young Contemporaries’ or ‘Nawa Kala Karuwo’ and the ‘Sri Lankan Art Exhibitions’ held each year.

In fact the Kala Pola, which began with just 35 artists has now expanded to over 350 participants. Several International Art Camps too have been held over the years where local talent gets to meet and work with established artists from overseas, and an exhibition “Moods and Modes” in 1998 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Independence, featured works by 90 leading artists including that of the ’43 Group.

All this was part and parcel of Cedric De Silva’s vision when he, together with a select few of like-minded persons, joined hands to form The George Keyt Foundation in 1988. Over the next 25 and more years, Cedric was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, giving guidance and vision to his fellow Trustees in how to take things forward.

In fact within the first ten years of its establishment the Foundation had held as much as 50 exhibitions of different standings, from group shows to individual exhibitions of Sri Lankan and overseas painters. In fact, today’s art scene in Sri Lanka owes its present standing to the vision and dedication of Cedric de Silva and his band of merry men and ladies.

Cedric has always had a passion and drive to promote and help those in need or those less fortunate and has been involved in many public charities and humanitarian organisations where he has brought his professional skills and knowledge to bear.

A leading Chartered Accountant of over 50 years professional practice, Cedric served for many years at Tudor V Perera and Company, where he went on to become the principal Partner. In fact in 2015 he celebrated his 50th year as a Chartered Accountant with a special Service of Thanksgiving at the Anglican Cathedral.

His early passion was tennis. He was a leading player in his day, and went on to get involved in the administrative side of the Tennis Association in the 1960s. In 1981 he was appointed as a Director of the ETF Board and the Insurance Corporation of Sri Lanka and was appointed as Chairman of the ETF Board in 1982. He was involved in assisting to set up Sampath Bank in the late 1980s, and later in helping to establish Pan Asia Bank.

Cedric was also involved, through the Insurance Corporation in helping to set up the Robinson Club in Bentota, and the Trans Asia Hotel in Colombo. He went on to serve as the Managing Director of the Trans Asia Hotel, better known as the Ramada Rennaissance Hotel (now Cinnamon Lakeside) in the late 1980s. In fact, in the early 1990s, he was instrumental in arranging for the hotel to host a series of month-long Art Exhibitions grouping together the paintings of 4 to 5 of our leading contemporary artists of the time.

There is much, much more that we all at The George Keyt Foundation and the Sri Lankan art world are grateful for, in the vision and leadership of Cedric de Silva, ably assisted by his wife Sita, over the many, many years that they guided the fortunes of our art fraternity.

Chairman and Board of Trustees
THE GEORGE KEYT FOUNDATION
01st June 2021

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