|The call of Pushpakumaras art
It is becoming slowly evident that art and artists burst out of every nook and cranny in this thrice-blessed island, but none so many as from the remote outposts of the interior of the land. Contemporary artist Koralagedera Pushpakumara has an explanation for this - "We live alongside nature to such a great degree, we have such simple entertainment, and we are constantly exposed to the wonders of natural surroundings that it goes deep within us". Possible? Certainly, because most contemporary artists hailing from the villages have this enviable freedom of expression. Not for them the shackles of inhibition, not for them the stilted, hesitant brush strokes. Pushpakumaras paintings scream out at you, they do not beckon gently.
A somewhat introverted, deep thinker, Pushpakumara, 32, hails from the remote village of Pitunugama in the Kandy district. As a young boy, he grew up in typical village surroundings. As with all persons who love art, the magnificent, picturesque landscapes they encounter, tends to be filed in the recesses of their minds and with Pushpakumara, it is the colours that he paints with that is sheer evidence of this.
A strikingly handsome man himself with a classic Kandyan profile and a statuesque physique, Pushpakumara is disarmingly naive about his brilliance. He graduated from the University of Kelaniyas Institute of Aesthetic Studies where he studied painting and sculpture and went on to hold many exhibitions jointly and singly. His first exhibition, held at the Heritage Art Gallery, was called Figures. His paintings have always had an excellent response because of their ability to blend in practically every interior. Asked whether he is inspired by any of the Great Masters, he replied in the negative saying that although he admires their works greatly, he was more inspired by local artist, Jagath Weerasinghe.
Pushpakumara uses an unique layered technique of painting. His colours sit atop one another, yet, magically they merge in a marvellous marriage of colour and transparency. He is enamoured with the human figure and the upper torso especially, which he says "conveys the most expression in a human being". Theres a melodious fluidity to his paintings, theres also a slight reflection of the artist, hesitant, shy and somewhat introverted, in the art. Pushpakumara uses an amazing palette of secondaries, hed go for ochre rather than brilliant yellow, sap green instead of viridian and russet instead of vermilion, but he does it with such amazing panache, it is the colour usage that is so striking.
Pushpakumara is reluctant to paint details on his faces. "There is no necessity to reveal every emotion, we hide so many all the time", was his explanation for this. True. Some of his paintings are titled "Trying to read life", "discontented", "Merging with darkness" and "A reading from life". There is a soulful melancholy feel to the paintings, most of the figures have their rear views painted and when the frontal view is visible, their faces hide a mixture of emotions, never being revealed. Yet the paintings have a forceful impact on the viewer.
He says he painted in an avant grade fashion in the past and he is not averse to painting the human form in graphic detail, but his forte is the upper torso, and he does it so well. Pushpakumaras paintings all have a deep meaning; many viewers can relate to them and they can be a delight to come home to as they adorn a favourite corner of the house. They are striking in their simplicity, startling in their usage of colour and empathic in their meaning. Whatever other positive sides they have, they can never leave the viewer unimpressed.
An exhibition of Pushpakumaras paintings will run from 4th to 24th October at
Paradise Road Galleries at 2 Alfred House Road off Alfred House Gardens or Avenue, Colombo
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