A heart-warming acrylic sits in the living space of the humble home of husband and wife duo, Janaka and Chamarie. This is a painting of a bullock cart rolling on into the sunset, carrying two small silhouettes which makes Aartzy Co-Director, Chamarie reflect "I remember my mom saying that the heads of those children seated on that bullock cart looked like my brother's and mine". The painting first purchased by her parents is a homely dose reminiscent of the symbolic expressions, captured by the artist and the impact it had on her family.
Aartzy - a curated platform that showcases the talent of local creators is the brainchild of Chamarie's husband, founder and the other half of the directorial duo, Janaka. At present Aartzy is on the fruitful journey aimed at uplifting the versatile cultural identity of Sri Lanka through various mediums of art forms.
Aartzy's inception takes shape on a rainy morning which led Janaka down the streets when he noticed a gentleman selling paintings seeking shelter under the foliage. A people's person by nature, Janaka walked up to him initiating a simple conversation which would soon change the course of many lives to come.
Noting the lack of cover against the unforgiving weather, Janaka received his first education on the harsh reality of an artist's undervalued profession. Popping open the rear door of the vehicle, the artist helped Janaka peruse his collection of paintings which he had saved on an IPad - a fact Janaka himself would take serious note of, for later use.
In times of intense weather, the scramble of artists to safeguard their delicate creations leads them from achieving little to no sales. These inconsistencies will demoralize these creator's ambitions and affect their livelihood. With the painter's hardship weighing down on Janaka's conscience, he was arrested with the idea of starting a website. Although the thought dwindled for a while, Janaka was consistently optimistic about the future of his brainchild.
Eight months later, Aartzy has come a long way from being a simple conversation held on the rain drenched streets to now a lucrative platform, which is home to numerous local creators showcasing a range of creative talents from paintings, photographs, sculpture, drawings, lifestyle creations etc.
Through much research and field work, Janaka is ensuring that the creator4s in the Aartzy programme are of the highest levels of integrity in their profession and passion. Janaka shared that saving their individual work in a digitalized form is not a reality for many creators, as he himself has taken the pains to individually make contact and discuss opportunities available to them.
The skill level of the local artists is on par with that of an international creative states Janaka, adding that the price discrepancy between the western and local artists make our art the more value-added alternative which definitely can uphold a competitive edge, in terms of value for money together with our cultural heritage and quality.
With a 22-year background in marketing, Janaka's passions are simple - it's the "people" and the "products" he chuckles. "I know what people want and what they would expect" he shares adding "regardless of the product, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same" whether it be art, a phone or even a water bottle "there is always a demand and there should be a quality supplier who needs to fulfil that demand".
His in-depth investigations into this multi-billion-dollar global industry, allows Janaka the credibility to affirm, "There is a demand and we are delivering to it". With numerous artists now using means of social media to self-promote, Janaka states "Most local artist's skill level stops at being creative", the plight of many not fully understanding how or to whom to showcase their art leads them to find an unstable means of making ends meet. Whether this be on the streets of Colombo or at local festivals and platforms where curators pick and choose the pieces that are presented. This is where Aartzy will step in.
Skilled in research analytics, Janaka has an in-depth understanding of the current art enthusiast demographics, users of eCommerce platforms in purchasing items like art and how to use big data of online shoppers to analyse typical buying behaviour. This knowledge and awareness allowed him to create a fully comprehensible eCommerce model to attract and engage customers from all over the world with the simple and user-friendly interface.
The platform is open to any artist from all art and craft mediums with an inherent confidence in their work. "I respect their work" Janaka states placing his belief in the creator's integrity to their own craft believing that he himself doesn't have the right to pick from or reject their immaculate work.
With the initiation of Aartzy, Janaka will also safeguard the interests of the customer by providing them a service to enable bringing them closer to what they initially bargained for - avoiding the messy process of negotiating prices, creating an awareness and genuine appreciation for the local artisans. Far more importantly, he will give them a reliable platform to purchase a substantial, concrete finished product.
"A lot of my friends when they come down from overseas would take pieces of art from cultural art to portraits, or something unique to Sri Lanka with them", Chamarie chimes adding that this allows the homesick to bring a semblance of the country into their households.
"For an example, does someone in Ontario know what type of artistic creations are available in Sri Lanka?" Chamarie rhetorically questions. Aartzy will network local artisans with a platform that will bring them global exposure whilst providing those abroad the ability to purchase a sentimental memento to their home.
Its integrity of safeguarding artists is further upheld as Aartzy comes at no costs to the contributing artists, taking on all the behind the scene work from the product write-ups, shipping, marketing and promotions, framing etc.
"Art is a way for the artist to express their ideas", Janaka shares. "By inviting an artist's perspective into your living space, you sync with the thought process of the artist", he states. "There's so much of themselves that goes into it", Chamarie adds on, the ultimate buyer will get in tune with the artist's ideas, thus establishing what Chamarie smiles is the ultimate "human connection".
Her father an ardent art enthusiast hosts a range of unique collections on his walls, and Chamarie only hopes that this initiative will encourage people to appreciate the 'art of expression' again in a time where we have lost ourselves to the digital age.
And what makes them believe that Aartzy will be a success? "It's a gut feeling", Janaka laughs, looking back at the milestones achieved from the time of that one simple conservation that has led team Aartzy to establish an era of - "Let's talk expressions".
The Vision of Aartzy is to create a vibrant arts and crafts platform, which is easily accessible to everyone in the service of our loyal creators who are our greatest asset; along with adopting social engagement and creativity amongst our community.
The Mission of Aartzy is to establish a creative platform to showcase the versatile work of skilled creators to the local and international audience.
In setting the Mission Statement, the Aartzy Team also identifies the following values: