Soul Windows: The eyes are the windows to the soul | Sunday Observer

Soul Windows: The eyes are the windows to the soul

7 March, 2021

Soul Windows the second solo exhibition by Shanaka Kulathunga will be held from March 12 to 14 at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery.

Shanaka Kulthunga is a skilful artist, who has studied fine arts both formally and informally in and out of institutions. He is specialised on portrait painting and gained inspiration from the techniques of the masters of post-classical era mostly. The human body has been his subject as well as his muse behind his creativity since adolescence which later led him to find his artistic soul and his professional career in life as a physician.

Soul Windows is his second solo exhibition ready to be unveiled at the Lionel Wendt Gallery from March 12 to 14 this year. Soul Windows is a synonym for ‘eyes’ and a person’s eyes are the windows of the soul. Soul Windows will unfold Shanaka’s latest collection of soulful portraits of ‘the known and the unknown’.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, he recalls the love for painting that grew in him from a very early age. However, being studious from his schooldays, his parents always encouraged him to choose career-driven subjects. ‘Arts’ was not in their vocabulary. Passing the GCE (Ordinary Level)examination with bright colours, although he chose to study Bio Science at Royal Collage, Colombo, he soon became popular in school for his artistic talents. “I have been an average student in the Bio class, but my unique identity always relied and shined as an artist. I feel more like myself when I’m in front of a canvas.”

Shanaka identifies himself as an ‘outsider’ to the local art fraternity; however, he learned the basics of the human anatomy at the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts and was trained by prominent artist Dr. Chandraguptha Thenuwara. Throughout his career as an artist, Shanaka received appreciations for his art and won many awards and appreciations locally and internationally. His work has thus far been part of many group exhibitions, including, the annual Sri Lankan Art exhibition organised by the George Keyt Foundation.

The use of colours in Shanaka’s paintings is unique and interesting. Each portrait is allowed to keep its own visual space within his palette, and his artistic ability to work with vibrant colours such as the blues, reds and greens together but separately on the surface is something captivating. Elaborating his point of view of the use of colours Shanaka says, “I am totally in love with the use of primary colours. I think the strength of red, blue and yellow and the contrast they create gives a great liveliness to the image. Besides, I always like to experiment, therefore, although my most comfortable choice of medium is oil and acrylic, I also try to work with pastel and charcoal. Sometimes even with no colours at all.”

Speaking about his process of work, Shanaka spends more time on thinking and visualising about the realistic qualities of the portrait before he starts to work with the model. As an artist driven by practising the traditional, accurate techniques as much as possible in his paintings, for him the paramount goal with any portrait is its concept which consumes a lot of thought and energy to decide. “I always believe that drawing a portrait is not just what I see, but what I want others to see through it. Therefore, in every portrait I pay more attention to one detail and develop the concept of that person based on that,” he said.

For a patient observer of Shanaka’s paintings, his well-disciplined brushwork, texture, value compression and colour harmony is quite obvious. His keen attention on correct hues, values, proportions and so on are visible in every painting of his.

“I love to paint in many layers and try to anticipate the effect one layer has on subsequent layers. It’s quite a strenuous process but exciting and definitely keeps me on my toes,” Shanaka says.

As Shanaka reveals, he never restricts the time he spends with models to one or two sittings but each portrait takes at least six to eight sittings. Although he photographed many poses of a model, he tries to rely on live drawing as much as possible. “The paintings in this exhibition, Soul Windows were retouched from the start to the finish many times until I was satisfied. I’m no longer able to whip out a painting every couple of week, but this process is much more fulfilling to me as an artist,”

Any portrait painting can be intended as a reflection on the mystery of life. Shanaka’s pictorial style can certainly be defined as a realist or hyperrealist where the level of detail in his paintings is quite phenomenal. His obsession for details has undoubtedly sharpened and moulded his specialty in portrait painting. “The more I represent details, the more I continue to want to reveal them. It means for me to get as close as possible to reality and have the illusion that what I am creating can at some point take life and reveal a soul. Therefore, in every portrait I do I want to reproduce an image with a strong visual impact as much alive as possible.”

Shanaka invites all art lovers to visit his exhibition which marks another milestone in his artistic journey.