‘Reflections in Colour’ | Sunday Observer

‘Reflections in Colour’

25 June, 2023

An exhibition of oil paintings ‘Reflections in Colour’ by Jayani Pinnewale, will be held at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery on July 5 and 6 from 9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since a career diplomat began her love affair with oil paintings nearly three decades ago in Italy. Jayani Pinnewale’s brush with destiny in Italy resulted in her creative talents blossoming and becoming a renowned artist with a passion to display oil on canvas.

At an age when people would prefer to spend their retirement in comfort, Jayani is immersed in a world of her own capturing the essence of life in a kaleidoscope of colours.

‘Reflections in Colour’ will be a renewal of her lifetime’s labour of love depicting ‘nature’s glory’, expressions of ‘fear’, ‘contentment’ and ‘helplessness’, landscapes and portraits of birds and animals not just humans, that will be exhibited through her brilliant paintings at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery.  

“I started painting for this exhibition somewhere around 2018. This time it is mostly on birds and sceneries,” said Jayani who hopes to display about 60 paintings during her exhibition which she last held in 2016.


“Most of the birds come to the garden. It is very difficult to get a clear idea about birds. I go for a picture where I can get details. When you look at the bird, you can remember features to make it more natural. I have the resources so I can make use of it,” she said.

Jayani Pinnewale

Her modus operandi to paint scenery is slightly different. “It is mostly from what I see. I use a lot of green. My colours are mostly blue and green which I use for sceneries with water,” she said, painting unique pictures using various colours of water, she said.

A former career officer in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, she served in many senior positions including Commissioner of Internal Trade and Additional Secretary of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, before indulging in her passion.

After the completion of her tenure of service in the Embassy, she returned to Sri Lanka and though she held senior positions in the administrative service, as Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Samurdhi, Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Tourism and Sports and in the Ministry of Urban Development and Sports, she continued her interest and continued her painting during her free time.

Her canvas for painting broadened largely during her travels to more than 100 countries. “Whenever I go to any country, I go to the art museum and see the painting. Then I get an idea how to do it and remember the colours. I’m very good at selecting colours but still I look at the painting to get my idea about the paintings because like sceneries it differs from one place to another,” she said.

“For instance, when we went to Ukraine, I saw a painting on the road. How they view the paintings. All those things I notice and come to mind what to do for the next one,” she added.

Painting for different audiences

“When I think of what I have seen in other countries, certain sceneries are not always green. There are autumn and winter seasons. It differs from country to country. I’m not a person who does painting only for Sri Lanka audiences. I started painting in a different country. What I learnt from there is still in my mind,” she said.

“I go for scenery showing a winter village or something like that where you get snow. For example, for ‘Nature’s Glory’ the way I used colours, it would be any other country or even Sri Lanka,” she said.

Real life incidents have had a profound impact on her creativity. “My painting ‘Helplessness’ is a good example of how the tsunami devastation influenced me during those awful days we encountered that calamity. I have attempted to portray this sad episode with a painting on ‘tsunami’ which will remain in my memory for a long time,” she said.

Then there is a girl with flowers portraying a sense of ‘contentment’ and a painting of a mother and child displaying ‘affection’ which is adored by her daughter. There is also a painting of ‘lover birds’ which she doesn’t want to part with and the feeling of ‘fear’ of something in her collection. Her paintings mostly reflect the positive side of life.

“I am glad that I have been able to pursue my interest and develop my talent without letting it go to waste. Some people start painting because first they are interested in it, but as they do various other things it dies halfway and people stop. In my case, I have been doing it even with other work,” said Jayani, who is immersed in a world of her own with a brush in hand.

“If I had not gone to Italy, I don’t think I would ever do painting. That’s why I say anybody can develop some type of capability. What you have inside can develop by a change of environment. If I had been in Sri Lanka, I would never have done painting. It would have died away with me,” she said.

Contentment and relaxation

Painting oil on canvas has given her contentment and mental relaxation in the winter of her life.

“Paintings bring me joy, relaxation and peace of mind. I still enjoy painting as part of my retirement. It gives me some satisfaction and relaxation. If you are painting something, you forget everything around you. It is something surreal. Even if somebody asks something, I may not listen or hear. You are in a world of your own. That’s the difference,” she said.

Jayani is fascinated by the productions of painter Thomas Kinkade who does beautiful images using different shades of light and admires very much the greatest painter in the 20th Century Pablo Ruiz Picasso.

“I started painting only in Italy when I heard there was a class in the FAO building. In school, I did water colours other than that, nothing. When I first went to that class, the British teacher asked ‘what do you want to do’. I told him I had done water colours but I want to try oil on canvas. He was surprised. He laughed and said ‘okay, you can try’,” recalled Jayani, a product of Visakha Vidyalaya.

She derived confidence from the fact that she had the capability in selecting colours. “I’m very good at it. Actually I can. I don’t know how it came to me. That was my forte,” she said.

From her school days, Jayani had taken much interest in Music and Drama. She was a member of the School Choir and also took part in plays in School, including Visakha Geetha Natakaya. She also joined Dr. Sarathchandra’s Drama ‘Sinhabahu’ while studying for her Degree at the University of Peradeniya. In Rome, she was inspired by the rich culture of Italy and the atmosphere created by the Art consciousness of the Italian people, to engage in painting.

She has been complimented for the candid use of colours in her paintings.

“I go for colours capturing the same mood in the painting by using colours so that it will be attractive to anybody and pleasing to the eye for everybody,” she said.

“I also look at the positive side of life mostly. There is a mixture of sadness, helplessness, old age but better side of life mostly,” she added.