Art News | Sunday Observer

Art News

2 May, 2021

Dots and Lines

By Varunika Ruwanpura

In March 2020, artist Preethi Hapuwatte returned from visiting family in Darwin, Australia and found herself having to self-quarantine for 28 days as part of Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 prevention policy. ‘I did not think of it much but started painting with the minimum of art material I had at home at the time, just paper, ink and watercolour. I created 25-line drawings and a few oils on canvases,’ Preethi says.

These outputs have resulted in Dots and Lines - her 12th exhibition of paintings. She is no stranger to the Colombo arts community having worked for 28 years as a Design Director at Barefoot Ceylon. She first joined Barefoot in 1972 as an assistant to Sri Lankan design doyenne Barbara Sansoni but took some years off to travel overseas with her family.

Preethi was also a member of the George Keyt Foundation for several years and participated in the Foundation’s Nawa Kalakaruwo exhibitions and international artists’ camps in the 1990s. Her paintings are held in private collections around the world. She retired from Barefoot in June 2020 and now greatly enjoys spending large amounts of time at home in relative seclusion indulging in her favourite activity – painting.

It took nearly a year to put this exhibition together and she deeply enjoyed creating each painting given the leisurely pace her recent retirement allowed her. According to Preethi, her paintings need little explanation - they are very simple drawings of people, animals and trees that she observes every day. Among the mostly brightly coloured paintings that she has created for this exhibition are a few crisp monochrome pieces.

“I too have a few dull moments. That is when I do monochromes!” is her explanation. “But I am mostly a colourist because I have worked with colour for many years.” Clothes, textiles, toys and bags that she designed for Barefoot during her long career there are proof of her lifelong love for vibrant colours. Working with colour helps her create a stronger depiction of objects and living things according to her.

Painting gives Preethi great joy. She is completely at peace when engaging in her craft: “It is my meditation to take my mind off many other things”. And at this time in the world, there are certainly many things on everyone’s minds so having a creative outlet like this to provide release is indeed a blessing. She says that she is extremely thankful to fans of her artwork without whom she would have found it difficult to maintain her passion and enthusiasm for painting for so long. Preethi does not exhibit her paintings often.

But when she does, each exhibition draws on a new theme that is often her personal take on life at the time. This exhibition is no exception. It was conceived, created and will be exhibited in the time of COVID-19. One artist’s exploration of what it means to live through these exceptional times with hope and joy.

Dots and Lines is being exhibited at The Barefoot Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka to up to May 16.

The writer is an academic, journalist and author based in the Australian Northern Territory. 

Reminiscence - as an art exhibition by Susiman Nirmalavasan

Born in Batticaloa in 1982, Susiman Nirmalavasan is a visual artist working across a range of mediums; from oil and clay to dye on cloth and canvas. The materiality of his works function as both an aesthetic choice and a reflection of a broader reality. Without easy access to conventional art materials, Nirmalavasan found that the organic maediums of clay, gravel, sack, coal, ash, and tea dye were far more representative of his narrative.

As a child, he began drawing and painting using charcoal, kurumpeddy (immature coconut fruits), and maampinchu (tender green mangoes. These early experiments have seeped into his current work.

His latest exhibition, titled Reminiscence is a reflection of these memories growing up in the East coast of Sri Lanka. As a child the artist grew up hearing only the distant tales of the battle against terrorism passed down to him from his father; soon, he himself became a victim.

The life and merriment of the village he grew up in drained in front of his eyes as his family relocated to escape the war; but the war was inescapable.

Through this exhibition, Nirmalavasan seeks to revitalise his memories of his past; the plentiful mangroves and sprawling paddy fields, the days spent drawing on the walls of his house, the stories his father told him.

Paradise Road Galleries is hosting ‘Reminiscence’ at the Gallery Cafe.