When we are born into this world, our path of life has already been chosen. No matter how much we try to walk down a different road, what is predestined will always make its way known. Our artist in conversation today is Aryawansa Kumarasinghe, a veteran in his field who was born to an Ayurvedic family, yet his calling was to become an artist. Let's walk through his journey to becoming an artist!
How long have you been painting?
I started painting when I was 22 years. In school I studied science subjects as my father wanted me to become an Ayurvedic Doctor, but I believe life has other plans for me as I am the only artist in my family.
Who are your greatest influences?
My greatest influences are my teachers, G.S. Fernando, Susil Premarathne and Cyril P Abeyratne. They paved the way for me to learn the art. What is interesting is that they didn't teach me how to draw, but taught me techniques which gave me the freedom to experiment and learn on my own.
Did you have a formal education on art and painting or are you self-taught?
My influences are my teachers. I did not attend a school of art, so I do not have formal education. But In 1979, I found my first job in the Ekala Freelance Industries as the main artist, I think.
Do you have a particular style? How did you become so passionate about this particular style?
I am a freestyle artist. That is my style. I use quick brushstrokes, influenced by my teachers. Being a free style has given me the freedom to create different paintings and not be confined to one genre as I work with oil, watercolors and charcoal as well.
What are your other passions other than art? How have these passions contributed for you to become the artist you are today?
I am an avid reader of history books and this has helped me in my work as well. In 2011, the Sri Lanka Navy requested me to create paintings from each era of our country, so that as and when our soldiers see them, it would increase their moral. I did my research first, visited museums, spoke with veterans in the field of art and history to bring life to these paintings. I make sure my painting tells a story, my brushworks, the colors are all results of intense research as I believe I need to bring justice to the history of our nation through my work.
Could you walk us through the process? Percentage wise, how much time do you spend preparing for the painting and how much time on the actual painting itself? Is preparation an important part of your process?
Many think painting is quite easy, those who are talented can just pick a brush and begin to paint. But it is not so. For me, more than anything my mind needs to be clear and I need to be free from other bondages which may hinder my thought process. It is more like a meditation. I research, depending on the task given to me and as I begin, the painting begins to unravel in my mind which is poured out onto the canvas. It can take me a week or two to finish a portrait and I also try to take a break in between paintings to clear my mind and have a fresh slate.
Are you engaged in new artistic adventures? How is artistic exploration important to you as an artist and your process? How do you then decide what to incorporate into your style and what you leave as pure fun?
As an Artist, I experiment every day. I mentioned previously, my teachers didn't teach me what to paint, so I try to experiment with different color palettes, different techniques. As every other field, Art also improves every day and trying out new techniques is important to improve ourselves.
Was there a particular moment where you could tell that your skills had just crossed over into being an exceptionally good painter instead of a pretty good painter? What did you do to make that leap?
Over the years, I have won many accolades and awards, writers have written about me in paper articles. I believe I have been recognized as my talent is appreciated. I am currently the President of the cultural secretariat in Minuwangoda, and I work with many artists in the area to develop their skills and promote their work. This development and achievements did not happen overnight; it took many years and practice. With age our thinking process changes, and our skills, advance and that is how I have improved myself to become a good artist.
How do you push yourself? Do you set goals for yourself? And if so, what are the goals? Do you think setting goals is important for an artist in his/her artistic journey? If so, why?
I don't have goals which are personal. My goal is to work for the betterment of our country through my art. I believe as artists we miss out on personal benefits as I am always focused on work.
How is your experience working with Aartzy? Do you think it is a useful platform for artists?
Janaka and his team have been so wonderful. He has helped me take my work overseas and I have been able to sell many of my paintings through Aartzy. I think this is a wonderful initiative for us Sri Lankan artists as we have very limited opportunity to take our work to the international market.
Aryawansa's entire collection can be seen at https://www.aartzy.com/artist/aryawansa-kumarasinghe
Manesha Pieris (2022)