Living in colour | Sunday Observer

Living in colour

Sri Lankan artist, Priyantha Weerasuriya’s unique works are being showcased at an exhibition which opened at the prestigious Camden Image Gallery in Royal Street, London, on August 28 and ends on September 01. Titled THE SPIRITUAL, the exhibition features the works Weerasuriya and two other artists, Prafulla Mohanti and Eccentric O.

Weerasuriya hails from Yatawaka in the Gampaha district and currently resides there but has his workplace in Nittambuwa, in a rustic setting with paddy fields at the back of the studio.

It was around 2002 that Weerasuriya took to art seriously. Having come to Colombo from his native village he got drawn to the world of art. He started frequenting exhibitions and galleries and came across Vibhavi, a centre for art and culture in Colombo. He had the opportunity of meeting many artists here and has been able to enhance his art by what he leant from Vibhavi.

Weerasuriya had his first exhibition in 2002 at the Crescat Boulevard in Colombo. This also brought him his first break in his artistic journey for he met Steve Alston, a British national. Alston was so impressed by Weerauriya’s work that he arranged for him to study in the UK. This Sri Lankan artist has followed short courses in Life Drawing at the Chelsea College Chelsea College of Art in London and taken the Foundation Fine Arts (Painting) Diploma at Central St. Martin’s College of Art, London.

He also did a stint as a Gallery Assistant at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK.

From 2002 – 2006 Priyantha painted in mixed mediums varied subjects but was gradually veering towards Buddhist themes. He had several exhibitions during this period including at the Harold Pieris Gallery, Lionel Wendt and the Phenomenal Gallery, Galle Face.

Meeting Hema Nalin Karunaratne of Swarnavahini gave Weerasuriya another good break. His art was featured in ‘Sundara Senasuradha ‘and the positive response he received for this encouraged him further.

Today, Weerasuriya’s art focuses on Prince Siddhartha, who later renounced everything and became Gautama Buddha. In his Sidhuhath portraits only a floating head and a semblance of shoulders, a far cry from the traditional depiction of Prince Siddhartha. His use of colours too veers away from the traditional golds and similar colours used in paintings of Princ Siddhartha.

He uses colours like dark blue for the face as to him it denotes peace and calm. What Weerasuriya depicts is the underlying dissatisfaction of Prince Siddhartha with his Royal lay life. According to Weerasuriya he ‘wants the viewer to more readily understand who the Buddha was and reflect on what his life means (to him and therefore to us) before his journey of self discovery. The artist may also be trying to make us look at how we look up to divinity instead of realising the potential for the same greatness in ourselves.

Priyantha uses powder paints for his Sidhuhath portraits as he can most successfully get the effects he wants with them rather than with acrylic or oils. He says it is a time consuming process to mix and match to get the exact colour he wants.

Now residing at Yatawaka and working in Nittambuwa, Priyantha Weerasuriya is an independent artist working in mixed media for individual commissions for private collectors and the hotel industry. He is also Consultant to PWA Architects on interiors and painting commissions.

His paintings are sold exclusively y at the KK Shop in Galle and online. His clientele includes collectors from Canada, Germany UK and many other countries.

Asked about the state of art in Sri Lanka Weerasuriya said that it is of a very high standard but needs more governmental and private sector support.

Among Weerasuriya’s solo exhibitions are ones which have been held at the Framers Gallery, Windmill Street, London, Nobel Sage Gallery, Finchley, London, Jennie Advent Gallery, Dulwich , London Ahsburnham Arms Geenwich , London , Suriya Gallery , Colombo and Harold peiris Gallery, Lionel Wendt, Colombo.

Among his group exhibitions are ones at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, London and Jeannie Advent Gallery, London, Dulwich.

At the 2008, Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, London Weerasuriya won an award for Siddhuhath.

Priyantha Weerasuriya remembers with much gratitude Stephen Alston, Phillip Weeraratne , Rukshan Nanayakkara, Amila, Anuradha and Tivon all of whom have helped him in no small measure in his artistic journey. He is also grateful to his wife, mother , siblings and other family members and friends for the support they extend to him.

A father of two, Priyantha is very much a family man. A deeply religious person he is heavily involved in religious activities and is a voracious reader of Buddhist Philosophical works.