‘Creating a piece of art is like giving birth’

Pix by Indika Handuwela

Artist G. Wathuwalagedera lives in a serene neighbourhood. Inside his garage is a little mess of colours, palettes, paint brushes and other equipment he uses for his work. An unfinished painting stands in the middle indicating that the artist is still working for his upcoming exhibition.
Mr. Wathuwalagedera’s art produced at different times of his career can be somewhat contradictory to the viewer.

“I scribble on a paper or a canvas, till I am satisfied with it. When I start I don’t have a set objective. I start and go on till something visually appealing is produced,” he says. He compares this process to a mother giving birth to a child. “And I don’t follow one technique to paint.”

He would mix paint on anything and doesn’t stick to a palette. Neither does he limit himself to realistic drawings but goes beyond that to create something. His intention he says is to create something without any barriers and he doesn’t look to please people or sell his art but works for his own pleasure. He is not inspired by the natural environment. Mr. Wathuwalgedera says when he experiments on paper or canvas, forms and colours metamorphose into unexpected configurations. The paintings are either abstract or semi abstract.

Painting is like meditation he says -- a way of taking oneself away from the busy humdrum side of life. “When painting I put 100% concentration into it, in other words I am absent,” he says. Of the 44-odd paintings and drawings on exhibition are some done in London. He hasn’t titled any, giving the viewer the freedom to interpret the works of art.

Mr. Wathuwalagedera studied at the College of Fine Art, now the University of Visual and Performing Arts. After graduating he left for London where he specialized in graphic design. Scholarships to other countries followed. Back in Sri Lanka he went into advertising, joining J. Walter Thompson. Wathuwalagedera is currently a visiting lecturer in graphic design at the University of Visual and Performing Arts.

He has travelled extensively and visited many galleries and museums of modern art. “There is not much appreciation for art here. However there is a small crowd who are interested and also those who buy art as collectors,” he said. The reason for this he said is the lack of time people have to enjoy the finer things in life and also the lack of guidance on the appreciation of art in schools.

“There is a great difference in doing an artwork for an advertising agency and doing it for one’s own pleasure. Here the primary importance is given to the expression of the idea,” he says.

Mr. Wathuwalagedera looks forward to taking his paintings to Kandy, which is his hometown to exhibit them there. “This would give a chance for schoolchildren in Kandy to appreciate modern art,” he says.

The exhibition of G. Wathuwalagedera’s work opens at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, Colombo
today and continues on December 12 and 13. The exhibition, a retrospective journey by the artist,
also has a handful of his students’ work on display.

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