Charith Wijesundara is an architect by profession. Having completed his Master’s in Architecture at City School of Architecture, Colombo in 2015, he continued to pursue his chosen career. However, as creative minds often tend to do, Charith pursued another passion of his: Creating digital artwork. He put to use his understanding of visual aesthetics to create a series of digital pop art-inspired work that he presented at two consecutive Kala Pola presentations organised by the George Keyt Foundation.
In 2019, Charith also presented his first solo exhibition in collaboration with Sri Lankan jewellery brand Papillon du thé, and most recently, he collaborated with M2M Verandah Offices, designed by MVRDV, an internationally proclaimed Dutch architectural firm, providing them with inspired fusion artwork he has come to be known for.
The artist shared with us how his experimental efforts in combining two styles of art from two ends of a timeline has ended up bringing him so many opportunities and helping him grow as an artist.
“I love pop art and I love to mix my personal tastes with Sri Lankan elements,” he said, adding that his two worlds of art and architecture are really not so different and that he feels he is better able to take direction due to his awareness of spaces and what they require to evolve.
Charith’s work incorporates Sri Lanka’s diversity in religion and the popularity of gods, devas, yakas, demons, and deities across different ethnicities, chronicling tradition, folk tales, prehistoric drawings, and archaeological evidence that support the notion of strange beings residing in a small island. His work distinguishes this other dimension of “yakas” and “devas” from its original form by playing on the western portrayal of superpowers in comics. These works aim to translate the traditional, mythical legends in visual imagery, and are inspired by pop art legend Roy Lichtenstein.
Being self-taught, Charith said he considers his lack of professional training an asset, as he is free to explore and experiment, and he isn’t held back or limited by any preconceived notions. He said he is able to think out of the box because of it.
Considering the fusion aspect of his work, we asked the artist if he has had to face challenges with regard to negative feedback from audiences that are slightly more conservative – those who believe
there is a line to be drawn when it comes to changing traditional imagery. Charith said that it is not that there hasn’t been any criticism, as there have been those who have voiced their distaste; there have been those who believe that certain traditional aspects of our history and culture should not be “distorted”. However, he said that the artist community is favourable towards innovation and appreciates the creative aspect and the value of innovative ideas, and so he has not felt deterred by the minority who criticise.
Charith said that while he is not a full-time artist, he is passionate about the things he does. He shared that he does not feel his day job is a hindrance to his side projects, or vice versa, adding that he is happy to dedicate any amount of time required to pursue his passions, and thankfully, he is fortunate to have colleagues and higher-ups who are supportive of his creative pursuits.