- Sudarshika Jayalath on her first solo exhibition ‘Muddled Mind’
By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
The workings of the mind are complex and make for interesting study. In Muddled Mind, a solo art exhibition currently being held at Gallery FourLife, Colombo 5, artist Sudarshika Jayalath takes a closer look at the mind as well as mental disorders.
The exhibition will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and consists of 15 works of art. The Morning Brunch reached out to Jayalath to learn more about her work, as well as her journey as an artist.
Jayalath has always liked creating art, even when she was in preschool. While schooling, she followed art as a subject for both her O/L and A/L exams. From Grade One to Ordinary Level, she studied at Minuwangoda Nalanda Girls’ Central College, and switched to Gampaha Siddhartha Girl’s School for her Advanced Level studies.
In school, as well as dhamma school, she took part in and won various art competitions.
“After my A/Ls, I was selected to Kelaniya University and studied visual arts and design. Under this, we studied art history, sculpture, painting, and graphics. These were our main categories,” she said.
In 2014, while still in university, Jayalath and a group of friends held an exhibition titled Vista. During their final year, the students were required to create a public art piece at Ranaviru Sevana, Ragama, a wellness centre for disabled soldiers.
“We had to create a design for their mental wellbeing, and it was presented as public art in 2016. This was my starting point to come forward in the art field,” she said.
In addition to art, Jayalath also shows interest in psychology, and read a lot of books and material related to the subject while still in university. Having completed her higher education, she started teaching, and currently teaches art at a government school.
“I continued creating art, especially with the knowledge I gained from the psychology books I read. I would start sketching while studying the psychology of the mind, reading relevant articles, and studying other artists’ work,” she said, explaining her process.
December 2019 is when she had the idea to put together the collection that eventually became Muddled Mind. Before she began work on the collection, Jayalath did a lot of research for two months on both psychology as well as other artists and their work.
“I studied their styles and looked at how I could bring out my personality through my work in a unique way. I created many sketches and chose the best out of these,” she said.
She worked on the collection for close to two-and-a-half years, making use of the time off work during the onset of the pandemic. She worked slowly and patiently, sometimes only working on her art for half an hour or an hour a day.
“One reason for this is that the paintings are done using a fine pen, so you can’t work on them for lengthy periods of time, as it is difficult on the eyes,” Jayalath said, explaining that working with colours like red and black at a stretch can be difficult.
Going into detail about Muddled Mind, Jayalath said: “The reason I chose this theme is because the environment in the past period and current times is very problematic. There are many factors, like natural disasters, inhumane behaviour, illness and disease, and socio-economic issues that cause mental distress.”
She went on to say that there is a higher chance of people developing mental illness over time due to this, especially since the mind is under so much stress.
“Let’s say there is someone with a slight mental health condition already. In an environment like this, we see and hear about oppression, conflict, natural disasters, death, and so on. This is extremely difficult for such persons to bear, and can lead to the development of mental illness,” Jayalath explained.
The collection of 15 paintings explores five mental illnesses: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), somatic symptom disorder, phobias, schizophrenia, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In the paintings, one will see the creative use of the shape of the brain, as well as the use of limited colours that are used to convey the pain people are currently experiencing. Colours like red, black, orange, blue, and pink are used.
“Gel pens are my medium here, with watercolours used in some instances for the layout,” Jayalath said. She added: “I also use a butterfly as a symbol for the human psychological state and thoughts. In some places, I use a typical butterfly, and in others, the butterfly is presented through shapes of the brain.”
Giving us a better idea of the collection, she went into detail about five paintings on PTSD. She explained how she creatively portrayed how death occurs in two key ways; natural disasters like floods as well as inhumane acts like shootings. The paintings also use butterflies to show how pressure builds in the brain.
The next paintings show them trying to relieve the stress or pressure, and how this manifests back in their brains. She explained that this shows how a person who goes through a traumatic event will be exposed to similar events in the media, which makes it difficult to move past the event.
Having completed the collection, Jayalath decided to exhibit the paintings. Despite never having worked with galleries like this before, she looked at her options and went with Gallery FourLife.
“Space wise, the gallery is not that large, but it is a good place for artists to build a foundation and a name for themselves. They are very supportive,” she said.
While this is her first solo exhibition, Jayalath plans to experiment with other media and study more mental disorders for another collection that she hopes to exhibit at some point in the future.