Art with a heart | Sunday Observer

Art with a heart

5 March, 2023

Most artists would agree that drawing is a matter of the heart rather than the mind. Art contains the artist: his or her personality, mannerisms, nuances. When the artist is identifiable in a piece of art, then an individual style has emerged. The artist has reached a certain ‘maturity’.

Teruni Wikramanayake and Suganya Johnpillai have been into art for many years. Though their styles are distinctively different, it is evident that their art stems from their hearts. However, the title of their upcoming exhibition indicates something different. They named the exhibition ‘Art with a Heart’ as they intend to donate all the proceeds from the exhibition to a cause close to their hearts.

Teruni Wikramanayake started her artistic journey by attending Cora Abraham’s school of art from a very young age. She remembers her first teacher Mrs Latifa Ismail fondly, saying that “she was a very gentle and kind lady who allowed me to express my creativity freely.”

“I also remember my late grand uncle Harry Pieris who was an artist of the ’43 group, whose walls were adorned with many paintings. I frequently visited his home and being exposed to that atmosphere would have subconsciously had an effect on me. Later in life, I took lessons from a Croatian lady Dora Tomulic and and then from Prof. Sarath Chandrajeewa. Ever since then, I have followed my love for painting.”

Teruni stresses that it was definitely under the skilled guidance of Prof. Sarath Chandrajeewa that she was able to hone her creative talent and ‘grow’ as an artist.

She also attributes her skill development to exposure gained from visiting various museums and galleries across the world.

Teruni’s preferred medium is usually acrylic paint although she has experimented with gouache and water paints as well. She enjoys using mixed media especially when she creates collages.

Teruni goes on to explain that she is usually unable to force herself to paint unless her mood is right. Therefore, she does not accept commissioned work or paint to meet deadlines.

“There are times I feel lost. At this point I start all over again or make amends and watch how my creativity flows. I never give up until I’m satisfied with my work.”

Teruni derives inspiration from many sources. “Colours that I observe everyday have an effect on me. The colour green stirs my emotions beyond my understanding. These emotions are what I struggle to paint on canvas. It’s a form of non verbal communication - what I cannot express in words. That’s why I say that I paint from my subconscious.”

As with most artists, Teruni too is inspired by other artists. “One of the ways in which I derive my inspiration is from browsing various websites and social media sites. A few of my much loved artists are Jackson Pollock, Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Joan Miro, Laki Senanayake.”

Suganya Johnpillai has also started her artistic journey as a child fascinated with sketching anything which caught her eye.

“I used to look at picture books or landscapes and just sketch. At that time and context, Art was not an area which was considered to be very important for children, so I did not receive any formal training. It was much later in life as an adult that I joined Prof. Sarath Chandrajeewa’s art class. It was Prof. Chandrajeewa who introduced me to various drawing and painting techniques and helped me understand what my artistic strengths and weaknesses were.”

After trying out various techniques Suganya had realized that drawing with charcoal had a more organic impact on her when expressing an image in her mind.

“I love working with charcoal. I love the way it feels when I touch the texture and use my fingertips to create shading and various hues.”

According to Suganya, she is still at the beginning of her artistic journey.

“I feel that my lines have become stronger with practice so I will continue to experiment and in time I might be able to identify a style which is very unique to myself.”

When asked about what compels her to make art, Suganya reveals that she feels happy when she is able to create something with her hands.

Suganya says that she initiates her creative process by going through a few pictures and then forming an image in her mind. “I am very intrigued and inspired by wildlife photography and most of my work is based on photographs. There are times when I take photos and base my work on them as well. I am interested in Daniel Wilson, the wildlife artist and also Prageeth Manohansa’s work. I could relate to those artists as my style is similar to theirs. Although distinctively different from my style, I am very inspired by Yayoi Kusuma’s work which is extremely colourful and contemporary.’

Although Teruni has exhibited her work a few times, this is the first time Suganya would be displaying her work to the public.

‘Art with a Heart’ will be held at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre from March 11-12 from 9 am to 8 pm. All proceeds from the sale of art work will be donated to the Sri Lanka Cancer Society.