A long tradition of art and crafts on the island of Sri Lanka has developed into a vibrant contemporary modern art scene.
Senaka Senanayake is a contemporary Sri Lankan painter. His work, characterized by its brilliantly colored scenes of lush, overlapping jungle fauna and vegetation, has earned him a reputation as one of Sri Lanka’s most appreciated artists.
Profession: Painter, Artist
David Paynter (OBE, RA)
David Shillingford Paynter, RA, OBE (5 March 1900 – 7 June 1975), was an internationally renowned Sri Lankan painter. He was a pioneer creator of a Sri Lankan idiom in what was essentially a Western art form.
His most celebrated works are his murals at the Trinity College Chapel in Kandy and the Chapel of the Transfiguration, at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. The Sri Lanka Philatelic Bureau commemorated Christmas in 1996 with two stamps featuring the murals from the Trinity Chapel.
George Keyt was a Sri Lankan artist and poet best known for his richly colored, Cubist-like figure paintings. Keyt’s combination of Sri Lankan life, the calligraphic lines of Henri Matisse, and forms he found in ancient Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, produced a wholly unique style.
- Born: April 17, 1901, Sri Lanka
- Profession: Artist, Poet, Painter
Lionel Wendt (pianist, photographer, literature collector, critic, as well as a cinematographer), studied in Europe in the early 1920s and was inspired by modernism in music, visual art, and literature.
On his return to Colombo, he bought a large array of the latest photographic equipment and a determination to experiment with photomontage and solarisation. Rather than simply reproducing modernist conventions in his photos, Wendt took inspiration from what he had learned in Europe to portray the richness of Sri Lankan life and traditions. Today many of his photographic works are in the Tate Modern collection in Britain.
Ivan Peries was a founding member of the Colombo ’43 Group of Sri Lankan artists but spent more than half his life in London and Southend-on-Sea. His native Sri Lanka continued to have a profound influence on his work, which featured rural life and the ocean shoreline.
The picture Monk on the Seashore at Dehiwala (which is in the V&A collection) is a good example of this preoccupation. It depicts a somber landscape of black sky, two white abstract trees, and a red-robed monk sitting in the foreground and looking towards the seashore
Sujeewa Kumari’s work explores womanhood in a post-colonial context and varies from digital photograph collages, video installations, and performances.
Her drawings follow the surrealist tradition, with realistic elements contrasted against a dream-like cosmos. Her latest work uses digital technology to produce montaged images, objects and flowers superimposed on portraits of people. This hybrid reality prompts the viewer to question the true nature of things.
Colombo-based Isuri Dayaratne is an up-and-coming illustrator and comic book artist who creates bold and quirky images, with a strong sense of humour and a dash of fantasy.
With a number of murals for her distinctive work already commissioned by café owners in Colombo, she is definitely an artist to watch as her output evolves and diversifies.
Jayasiri Semage is another artist who, like Keyt, has succeeded in combining Sri Lankan traditions with modernism. He specializes in folkloric scenes, combining avant-garde cubism with traditional Buddist techniques to create paintings that celebrate life.
Dinusha Upasena is a contemporary Sri Lankan artist whose work reflects his fascination with the mysteries of life.
His surrealistic work poses questions about the nature of life and existence, such as his painting of pitcher plants done in vivid luminescent pinks, reds and yellows. The viewer is first struck by their beauty, but then the awful realization of their true nature becomes apparent. His work points toward another, deeper and more disturbing reality.
Samaraweera is a sculptor specializing in the use of terracotta and cement to create modernist figures and animals. He is an artist with one foot in the past, and one in the present, and his work shows a strong influence from the wood-carving traditions of his father.
His work continues to evolve, and most recently he has adapted to the newest trends in the modern mediums of art, such as digital paintings on iPads.
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