- Group exhibition at the Colombo National Museum from 3 December
Artists Prasanna Weerakkody, Lester Perera, and Lalith Senanayake are joining forces to present “Unseen Colours” at the Colombo National Museum from 3 to 16 December.
The three artists work in three different disciplines, and Weerakkody said on Facebook that he was holding an exhibition after a 20-year period, with his last one being in 2002. “As it marks 20 years since my last exhibition, an invitation from my friend and fellow artist/sculptor Lalith Senanayake led us to organise a joint exhibition, along with another longtime friend and artist Lester Perera,” Weerakkody wrote.
Although a self-taught artist, Prasanna Weerakkody’s work draws inspiration from his father, the late Kalasuri Kalamanya Ariyawansa Weerakkody, a veteran artist, sculptor, and cinema art director, as well as his mother Kamala, who was a well-recognised art teacher who worked at several schools, including Samudradevi Balika Vidyalaya, Nugegoda, Mahanama College, Colombo, and Musaeus College, Colombo.
An avid naturalist, Weerakkody’s debut into art was initially as a leading wildlife painter with several book and poster illustration credits under his belt. He also ventured into becoming a professional artist early on, engaging in book illustrations while he was 16 years old and still schooling, as a source of pocket money.
In addition to this, Weerakkody always had an inherent interest in history, taking after his father, who was also a historian. Around the year 2000, Weerakkody started to deviate from his initial focus in wildlife art to painting reconstructions of Sri Lankan history and ancient Sri Lankan lifestyles.
His only solo exhibition “Kindred”, which was held in 2002 at the National Art Gallery, was a resounding success, and drew many public accolades for his historic paintings. This marked a pivotal point in his life, as it is when Weerakkody chose to let go of painting wildlife art and instead dedicated himself to the pursuit of historical reconstruction paintings, based on meticulous research and subjects of fantasy and mythology.
His work is displayed in many public spaces, including the Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi, India, and various defence establishments, as well as in many private collections.
Weerakkody works primarily with acrylics on canvas and regularly produces large canvases ranging up to 12×6 feet in size. He also works with oil and watercolour media. Though he does not engage in it regularly, he is also a skilled sculptor, and is a skilled digital artist in digital painting media, graphic design, and 3D modelling/sculpting.
Weerakkody also works as production designer in cinema, a concept artist for game and product development, and an architectural designer for specialised thematic projects. He also has a significant web presence through his art, which is widely circulated on social media and the web.
Weerakkody is also a leading environmentalist working especially on the conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems and species in Sri Lanka.
Among the most reputed bird artists with over a dozen solo exhibitions in Sri Lanka as well as overseas, Lester Perera’s work has been published in many magazines and journals. He is a fanatic ornithologist and an overall naturalist working in Sri Lanka and India. His interest in this area began during childhood, when he would sketch anything that was alive.
Among his biggest influences are a series of books titled Harmsworth Natural History, which belonged first to his grandfather and then his father. The illustrations in these books were the earliest pictures Perera saw and drew from as a child. Magazines such as Loris and Field & Stream were also favourites.
A self-taught and passionate artist, Perera has been primarily painting birds in their natural settings. Perera’s paintings are principally off the field, while his extensive field work on birds has had a great influence on the authenticity of the species he paints. His mediums vary from acrylic to watercolour and pen and ink.
Perera says that his family always loved animals and the wilds, a trait that may have played a greater role in determining the direction his life took.
“Throughout my childhood, we had many wild and domestic animals as pets, often orphaned ones fondly nurtured back to health by my father and I, assisted by my mother. Apart from the animals at home, I would tag alongside my father during his hunting sessions with the beagles we had,” Perera said.
After leaving school, Perera helped establish a sea turtle research and conservation work station in Bundala for the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA). During his time with NARA, he recorded an unusual beaked whale, which was later identified as the first Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) in Sri Lankan waters.
Apart from his work as a bird artist, Perera’s expertise extends beyond Sri Lanka to India as well, where he has birdwatched extensively throughout the subcontinent. He has also travelled in Thailand, the Maldives, and Taiwan. During his professional career as an ornithologist for over 20 years, Perera has led specialised birding tours in Sri Lanka, India, and the Andaman Islands. He is also a passionate wildlife sound recordist, and his collection of Indian bird species recorded exceeds over 400 species.
Lalith Senanayake’s father’s interest in the restoration of cars and his workshop have had a compounding impact on his psyche. The early years of his childhood were spent hanging around his father while assisting him in his work, and doing so nurtured his interest in discarded items such as springs and wire, which he used to create various things. This nurtured a seed in him, and as the years went by, his love for what many would consider scraps lingered on.
During his forays into sculpture, where he would use metal for the structural strength of his work, Senanayake realised his interest in working purely with metal and other similar material. He found that sourcing material was not easy, and his brother eventually helped him to transport the required components.
Indulging in many projects, Senanayake is an artist in many spheres. His experiences are astounding, ranging from painting ancient temple art to filmmaking, as well as draughtsmanship and graphic design. He has also worked as a cartoonist, and won the Journalism Award for Excellence as the best cartoonist in 1996. He has been a guest artist at numerous exhibitions and has exhibited his work in many countries. He has displayed his work in many reputed galleries and has been featured in numerous journals and magazines.
Senanayake, along with his wife and two children, achieved international acclaim in 2019 by creating a life-sized model of an elephant, simply by collecting plastic waste washed ashore on the western coast close to Colombo. Another project in the same vein on the Nilaveli Beach had to be abandoned due to the Covid-19 outbreak. It was to be a 150-foot whale and would have been the biggest-ever structure of its kind in the world.