Mirror Magazine
29th October 2000
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Painting the wild

By Uthpala Gunethilake
The paintings are like photographs taken with an extremely sophisticated camera. Every single detail perfectly defined on canvas, even the most obscure bit of colour faithfully etched out, the animals and their surroundings seeming so lifelike, tangible. A herd of elephants at a waterhole, the direct watchful stare of a leopard, a deer curled up on dry, stony ground, they all look as if with one touch they'll spring to life and walk out of the canvas. 

Athula DevapriyaBesides the talent and creativity of the painter, these paintings speak so clearly about the endless hours spent in the wild, learning by heart the exact movements and details of these creatures which are to be recreated on his canvas later. To Vishi Dharmasiriwardana 31, these forays into the wild are almost religious. 

"I had an uncle who used to travel very often to wildlife reservations and jungles and I used to go with him, staying in those areas for days," says Vishi relishing the memories. These trips fed his imagination and sharpened his eye for nature, gifts that were stepping stones in his career as a wildlife artist. Eversince then he has been a very frequent visitor to forest reservations around the country, spending weeks among the animals and the trees he loves so much. 

Vishi's painting career started when he was very small, and though he recognised himself as a wildlife artist only after sometime, he says he always had a fascination for elephants. "When I was very small I drew a lot of sketches and there was one which I kept on drawing. It was of elephants walking in a herd", says Vishi. Even now, many years later, his collection of paintings are dominated with elephants, in various postures and surroundings. 

Vishi calles himself a 'promoter of wildlife'. "Our jungles are getting smaller and the wild creatures are dying; it's time people opened their eyes and looked clearly at this problem", says this soft-spoken, self-taught artist. He plans to hold an exhibition in March next year of his wildlife paintings. 

Vishi laments the lack of recognition for wildlife artists in Sri Lanka, and the lack of avenues for them to sharpen their talents. "After you come to a certain point in your career, there is no place for you to study further in Sri Lanka. Specially in wildlife painting Sri Lankan techniques are far behind those of the world." He says that not many people come forward to support wildlife artists, adding that he greatly appreciates the help given by Mr. Mehboob Hamza, Director of Mondiale Fine Arts and Treasures, who is sponsoring the exhibition. 

Vishi says he plans to go abroad to study wildlife art. "Painting wildlife is all I want to do, and I want to make a name for myself, " says Vishi, and his ambitions are fuelled by the devotion to his work. He also has plans to get together with a few other local wildlfie artists and hold an exhibition in May next year, bringing out a message of taking care of nature.


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