A welder of hearts | Sunday Observer
Dananjaya Edirisinghe

A welder of hearts

Dananjaya Edirisinghe
Dananjaya Edirisinghe

‘All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces…So it is important to fashion one’s work in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life’ Alberto Giacometti the sculptor is supposed to have said. Metal sculpture is even more susceptible to this phenomenon simply because of the nature of the medium. We have many sculptors who work with metal but each one’s success as a sculptor would depend on whether they have managed to charge every particle of matter with life. When I saw Dananjaya Edirisinghe’s sculpture I could feel life reverberating in each one of them.

Dananjaya has not walked the customary path most artists tend to walk. He had had no ambition to become an artist when growing up. ‘I liked drawing and used to hang around my father’s iron workshop. I learnt welding and by the time I was 15 or 16 years, I knew welding very well. My father too was an artistic person and helped with my art.’ However, Dananjaya had not thought of pursuing art as a career simply because of the obvious hardship one has to endure to make it a financially viable profession. ‘Everyone knows that it is easier to make money, let’s say, as a You Tuber than as an artist. All I wanted to do was to get into a desk job and sit in front of a computer. So I opted for the insurance field’ Dananjaya says.

It was while he was sitting at his office desk that he had first fiddled with paperclips and sculpted forms with them. He says that his colleagues were very appreciative of what he made and that encouraged him to try sculpting with binding cable. ‘I used to sculpt with binding cable and since there was no way for me to exhibit them anywhere I used to display them on my desk so that my office colleagues could appreciate them. Since they liked my work I had the audacity to take them to a well known gallery where my work was brutally rejected at the reception itself. That made me even more determined to exhibit my work there one day and eventually I did!’

In 2018, for the very first time Dhananjaya had exhibited his work at the annual Kalapola. Due to the positive reception he received he had attempted to gain more technical knowledge through the internet and had seen the work of a Serbian female sculptor which had intrigued him. Once he got in touch with her, his work had compelled her to give feedback and guide him further. “She was the one who told me that if one works persistently the technique will be absorbed by muscle memory and that it would become easier and easier. She was very encouraging and continues to give me feedback on my work whenever I ask for it.”

Dananjaya says the more he works the more he realises that work done with no initial preparation or concept seem more successful than the ones initiated with a concept or a plan. “The formation of work takes over after a while and I become merely a tool,” he explains. Dananjaya uses the two techniques, arc welding and gas welding. He says that in gas welding the torch becomes like a paint brush and that he has developed the ability to manipulate the torch with ease and grace to obtain the form he wishes.

Since exhibiting at the Kalapola Dananjaya had exhibited at the ‘Nawa Kalakaruwo’ (New Artists) exhibition organised by the George Keyt Foundation and had supplied his art to a newfound clientele. “I was experimenting with material which would not corrode easily and realised that copper and stainless steel are better suited for outdoor garden sculpture which tends to corrode easily.” During this process he had understood that he needs to draw a line on experimenting with various material and focus on finding a signature style and an identity which is unique to him. It is with that particular style of work that he had exhibited at the Crimson Spaces Gallery in 2019. During this time he had also been invited to represent Sri Lanka at the World Youth Forum as a sculptor.

“I was the first Sri Lankan sculptor to participate in the world youth forum. It was a once in a life time experience and I valued it immensely. The event was held in Egypt and the sculpture I created was a human heart. Although I was given ten days I finished within three days and helped the other participants to finish their work. Because of that I was able to make many connections with other artists from all over the world. Most of the organisers and the artists knew Sri Lanka only because of the Tsunami or Ceylon Tea. I feel I was able to bring glory to my country because of my skill and ability.”

To end the conversation I asked him what he expects from Art and he said he believes in going with the flow until an opportunity comes along. When it does he would grab it and make the best of it. Although formed with heavy material Dananjaya’s sculptures are made with lightness of the mind. It is the process that dictates the artist and the artist enjoys the journey of making it. Eventually, the sculptures exuberate concepts which had crept in from somewhere but without deliberation. That is what makes Dananjaya Edirisinghe’s art special; for they are purely products of his heart.