Colours of the field brighten up his canvas

By Natasha Fernandopulle

Lasantha Kumara comes from Ampara, an area well known for its abundant rice fields. His father was a farmer and this gifted artist has no pretensions about declaring that he draws his inspiration from paddy cultivation.

Kumara’s paintings, which are being exhibited at the Paradise Road Galleries until April 20 are striking in their use of colour. Blues, yellows, greens and reds, leap off the canvas making his work come alive. Yet there is a softness and subtlety too that stays on with the viewer.

He had a passion for art from a young age. During his Advanced Levels, his teacher, Wijeya Hettiarachchi had been an inspiration to him. His encouragement led him to follow a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Kelaniya University, where he studied painting and sculpture.

During his final year in university, in 2000, Kumara and his fellow students were asked to choose a topic to present at an exhibition. He picked paddy fields as it was something very close to his heart. In his paintings Kumara highlights various features in a kamatha which include, the jathukarma and deva adahili. He even features the tools used in paddy cultivation like the udella, deketta, swasthakaya and the govie leeya in his work. Lord Ganesh the deity associated with bountiful harvest, is also depicted in his paintings.

Inspired by post-Impressionist artists like Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as local artist Jagath Weerasinghe, Kumara says what intrigues him most is their use of colour.

One painting that is of particular interest is where an environmentally-friendly method to protect crops is highlighted.

The artist says that in Ampara there is very little use of chemicals, so to keep away pests and worms that are harmful to the crops, farmers attract birds to the field who eat the worms and other insects. They do this by sticking coconut husks on top of objects that are inserted here and there in the field. The birds use these husks as a place to perch.

An art teacher Kumara says he is looking to experiment with new colours while passing on his knowledge to his students.

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