Colours to conserve

Artist Senaka Senanayake  

In the melee of Wilson Garden, Gallery Sumukha always seems to be an oasis. It feels more so these days because its walls carry the transcendental beauty of Sri Lanka’s endangered rainforests. The verdant jungles with its inhabitants – dragonflies, butterflies, macaws, humming birds, elephants etc – are painted in hues so bright which are impossible to imagine.

But they exist the way they have been portrayed. “The colours are not exaggerated. The only artistic license I have taken is taking the elements from different rainforests and mixing them. Otherwise these colours, the insects, the birds -- they are portrayed just the way they are. Sadly, they are depleting. Sri Lanka has lost 70 per cent of its rainforests,” states Senaka Senanayake.

The senior Sri Lankan artist, who has exhibited across the world extensively, is in Bengaluru for the first time with his art exhibition. He has had solos in Mumbai and exhibited in the last edition of India Art Fair in Delhi.

Ever since his environmentalist cousin introduced him to the world of rainforests, Senaka got fixated on it. A visit to the Sinharaja forests designated a biosphere reserve and a world heritage site by UNESCO, set him on a life-long exploration of environment.

Though Senaka’s repertoire consists of other styles and subjects too, the artist has come to be known for his rainforests works. His works on the subject hang at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, The White House, National Geographic Building in Washington DC, Berlin State Museum, National Panasonic HQ in Japan. In India, industrialist Mukesh Ambani had commissioned him to create works based on the theme of the lotus for a spa in his palatial home in Mumbai.

Surrounded by his works in the gallery, one feels transported to the wilderness. The peace they exude is contagious. Senaka uses his art as a tool to spread cheer and also raise awareness about the grave issues facing the ecology today. “The Britishers ruined the forests by making tea and rubber plantations but they did leave patches of the rainforests. We lost whatever little was left too. The problem isn’t restricted to one nation. We are living in one world. I am an artist; I can pick up my brush to talk about it. You are a writer, you can write about it,” says the artist, who also happens to be the grandnephew of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake.

Being a Buddhist, Senaka also brings in its philosophy of circle of life through its translucent halos painted over his forests.

Consistent with rainforests for over 15 years, now Senaka is looking at the depleting underwater life for his next series. “I recently went snorkelling and saw the corals have got bleached. Kyoto Protocol is not moving anywhere. Big countries refuse to sign it. We are in trouble,” feels Senaka.

Senaka feels the simplicity and bright colours of his canvas make it accessible to a layman. People try to copy his style as well, he reveals, but the effect Senaka is able to achieve by applying layers of colours beneath is hard to replicate. “I also use colours by different manufacturers which will have slight variation. If you see my gold colour on the elephant in halogen light, you will see different hues.”

(The exhibition ‘Homage to The Rainforest’ is on at Gallery Sumukha, till August 27)

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 10:32:50 AM |

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