Symbolising Sri Lankan identity

Saturday, 18 June 2011 00:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Text and pix by Harsha Udayakantha Peiris

“Vivid Hues,” is an exhibition of paintings that brought tranquil, traditional lifestyles of rural masses in Sri Lanka into the forefront of aesthetic delight. It commenced at the Kandy City Centre over the past weekend.

The exhibition included more than 80 paintings done by the students of veteran watercolour painter M.D.S. Gunathilaka.

The inauguration ceremony was held on 10 June 2011 with the initiative of veteran writer, film producer and lecturer of Sinhalese language Upul Shantha Sannasgala.  “This exhibition consisted paintings by my students, taking watercolour, acrylic and ordinary pencil drawings as their medium of expression. All are trained under my instruction and guidance rather in watercolour as they have shown a keen interest in the medium. The first exhibition was held in 2010,” says the Master Artist M. D. S. Gunathilaka.

 Having received school education at Wadduwa Central College, Gunathilaka who has been a painter of water colour since 1957 has been serving 33 years as an instructor of painting in several Government schools island wide. He has also served at the Giragama Aesthetic Teacher Training College.

 In an exclusive interview to the dedicated cause of the exhibition of paintings, “Vivid Hues,” Gunathilaka says that the core theme of the exhibition by his students brought out the traditional micro economic lifestyles of the rural masses in the country. “In Sri Lanka, even at present, traditional lifestyles prevail to a greater extent. In rural areas, bullock cart is still used for goods and passenger transportation. The needs of these rural masses are yet simple though they are unnecessarily and sometimes forcefully lured to run for the ‘bigger needs’ in town. But the citizens in these rural areas should not be considered as simple as that.  Their vast experience and knowledge of the right timely socio-economies have nourished this country over the years,” he said.  

Gunathilaka futhur added that, “Today, a large number of ‘big people’ in may nooks and corners of Sri Lanka are sons and daughters of these rural citizens who always contributed for the country’s development with respect and deep engagement into our traditions. Therefore, the dedications and sacrifices of such a generation could never be forgotten, as they have always taught us of an economic development that went hand in hand with the spiritual development of the people. And today, even westerners have identified this, and that is why the latest marketing policies encourage the marketers to call for the spiritual needs of the people in promoting their products.”

 He also strongly believes in symbolizing of Sri Lankan identity via local artistic expressions. “In my opinion, no one can deviate from our authenticity in whatever he expresses. Wherever we mark our footsteps, we should seal them with our identity. And, that should be the truly Sri Lankan way in taking our heritage, lifestyles and concepts worldwide. You take India, China or even France for example, and in all their aesthetic expressions, especially in artistic creations, they call us with their identity. In every flower they draw, in every figure they paint and in every curve they print, they want the viewer to know their motherly inheritance of the land they belong to. So, I believe that it is our duty and responsibility as teachers of art, to train our students, along the trails of our unsurpassed traditional lifestyles that nourished us and are still nourishing our ways, in our journey towards socio-economic prosperity,” he says.

 M.D.S. Gunathilaka expressing the innovative techniques adhered by his students of art says that most of the paintings  at the exhibition are a combination of abstract and figurative language. “Sometimes you may see them as separate languages. Try mixing them in a single expression. The result is extraordinary. It is appealing. And watercolour in my opinion, is the best medium to do this,” he says.  

 Nadeeshani Maduwanthi Rathnakela, Udeshika Chathurangi Adikari, Nilupama Madushani Egodapitiya, Lakmini Maheshika Dissanayake, Ayesha Shirangi Madanayake and Dananjaya Roshan Rathnayake all who were students of M.D.S.Gunathilaka had expressed with vivid artistic creations at the exhibition. The veteran artist, M. D. S. Gunathilaka is also the father of Nandana Gunathilaka - the  former Minister of Tourism and the present Mayor of Panadura.