Capturing the essence of love | Sunday Observer

Capturing the essence of love

5 March, 2023

Yuwantha Yasas is a young and talented artist who has been making waves in the art world with his unique perspective and artistic vision.

Born in 1990, Yasas completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in 2015 and his Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in 2017, both from Banaras Hindu University in India. Since then, he has had numerous exhibitions in Sri Lanka, India, and Japan, showcasing his talent and skill.

Yasas’s latest exhibition, ‘The Horizon of Love’, is being held at the Paradise Road Gallery until the 16th of March. The exhibition explores the concept of Sringāra, the pinnacle of emotional expression that encapsulates passion, romance, and affection. Inspired by the traditions of Pahari miniature painting, Yasas returns to the subject of Sringāra in his second solo exhibition, delving deeper into the transformative quality of romantic love.

In ‘The Horizon of Love’, Yasas takes us on a journey into a world where love and innocence endure. The southern coast of Sri Lanka serves as the backdrop, and the colours inspired by the setting sun create an ethereal realm that transports us into a realm of pure emotion. Through his art, Yasas contemplates the transformational quality of romantic love, where love changes into devotion, and passion embodies divine love.

In an intimate interview with Yuwantha, ‘Youth Observer’ delves into Yasas’s grueling process of making art and his unwavering passion for continuing to pursue art.

Through the interview, readers get an inside look at the life and art of Yuwantha Yasas. His dedication and passion for his craft serve as an inspiration for aspiring artists and anyone pursuing their dreams.

Exploring Pahari

For Yuwantha, the art of capturing love and intimacy is a lifelong passion. His works are filled with eroticism, inspired by the Pahari miniature painting tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Yuwantha’s style has been nurtured over several years of practice and exploration, drawing from various South Asian artistic traditions and a self-subjective approach.

Yuwantha’s passion for South Asian aesthetics began during his master’s degree in art, where he researched the Bengali art renaissance during the early 20th century. Since then, he has incorporated Sri Lankan and Indian traditions into his practice, exploring various forms and identities of drawing styles, resulting in a new identity for his unconventional artistic practice while still respecting traditional stylistic conventions.

“Based on my wife’s research thesis in 2018, I started liking and exploring the Pahari painting tradition. Before that, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I did research on the Bengali art renaissance during the early 20th century.

“This study sparked my interest in South Asian aesthetics, which has since captivated my attention. My painting style has been nurtured over the course of approximately five years through my association with the Pahari art tradition.

“This tradition has influenced my work to include an erotic style, drawing inspiration from popular songs such as Govinda and Rasamanjari from the Pahari literary tradition. I enjoy exploring the technical and stylistic identities of various designs from different regions, which has helped to build a new identity for my unconventional artistic practice while still respecting the traditional stylistic conventions,” Yuwantha reminisced about the arduous process of developing his artistic style from the ground up.

One of the difficulties Yuwantha faces in capturing the essence of love and intimacy in Pahari tradition is perfecting the erotic style. This requires prolonged practice of fundamental compositional art, rather than being a fleeting endeavour.

For six years, Yuwantha studied and drew romantic themes constantly. Following which, he spent roughly 13 years practicing his art with a self-subjective approach. The pursuit of perfecting the romantic expression in his art is a cherished and immeasurable quest for Yuwantha.

It is undeniable that certain human figures portrayed in Yuwantha’s paintings appear to lack emotional intimacy. However, when questioned about this, Yuwantha clarified that the representation of human figures in South Asian traditional painting and sculpture differs from the naturalistic style found in European art.

“However, there is a distinct use of mixed shapes, clothing, and ornaments that are infused with abstract lyrical rhythms. This results in a visual language that goes beyond naturalistic representation, incorporating free musical rhythms in the depiction of natural beauty.

“In certain paintings, the human figures portrayed do not encompass all the expressions present in the artwork. Rather, it is the combination of the emotions conveyed through symbolic images, colours of clothing, and the background environment that creates the desired taste of expression. Based on the designs created thus far, I believe that the efforts to blend the Sri Lankan identity with the South Asian erotic art have been successful,” he explained.

Artistic exposure

Yuwantha’s academic studies in India and exposure to various schools of art and artists have significantly influenced his artistic style. Winning a scholarship in 2010, he was accepted into the Faculty of Visual Arts at Varanasi Hindu University in India. In addition to receiving academic education from the faculty, Yuwantha honed his visual literacy through visits to various workshops, exhibitions, museums, and archaeological monuments. Living in an international student dormitory permitted him to freely explore different cultural spaces and form friendships with people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. This experience greatly transformed and enriched his way of thinking.

“Having the opportunity to witness the Ajanta Cave Paintings was a refreshing experience that helped me break away from the European colonial mentality, which had been difficult to overcome. This experience has been instrumental in kick starting my journey to develop my own style, as it encouraged me to be more open to exploration,” he said.

Influence of digital collage

Yuwantha’s paintings possess qualities reminiscent of contemporary digital collage, with various colours, lines, and shapes coexisting in his design space.

“I am confident that my work embodies the flavour of contemporary digital collage. Within my design space, various colours, lines, and shapes coexist, each occupying their own unique space. Additionally, in multiple instances, my artwork features human figures accompanied by Indian art elements. This outcome is a direct result of utilizing theories from the realm of entertainment,” Yuwantha explained.

He draws inspiration from the Ajanta paintings that depict the Buddha’s visit to Kibulwat Pura and his encounter with Yashodara, emphasizing more space between human figures and the background for greater spiritual interpretation and the depiction of long stories. Yuwantha’s art compositions blend several styles and traditions, resulting in a contemporary digital collage flavour.

The challenge of a distinctive artistic style

One of the biggest challenges an artist faces when developing his own style is the risk of losing his audience. However, Yuwantha states that he has not experienced this feeling. Instead, he is confident in his work and is dedicated to the pursuit of perfecting his art.

Yuwantha’s unconventional artistic style captures the essence of love and intimacy, creating unique and beautiful works of art that stand out from the crowd.

“The only aspect that could be considered a challenge is the time spent acquiring knowledge. However, once design is integrated into my work, time is no longer a challenge. By prioritizing self-expression over adhering to strict time constraints, I have been able to embark on a journey of discovering a unique artistic style,” he explained.

Yuwantha has been largely motivated to pursue a career in the field by the support and encouragement of his family, particularly his wife Smita.

Their unwavering love and belief in his abilities has been instrumental in his education and development as an artist. Furthermore, the encouragement and patronage of avid art collectors and patrons have served as a significant catalyst for his artistic exploration, pushing him to continuously strive for excellence in his work. Collectively, these factors have fueled his passion for art and inspired him to pursue a career in the field.

His work is a testament to his exceptional talent and skill, as well as his ability to convey deep emotions through art.

His latest exhibition is a must-see for art lovers and anyone interested in exploring the transformative power of romantic love.