Mirror Magazine

Evolutions in art
With a unique blend of inspiration drawn from both great masters and Sri Lankan culture, artist Amaresh Pereira is set on making his mark in the world of art. Kesara Ratnatunga talks to him

“What is the use of a man who gains the world and loses his life,” says Amaresh Pereira quoting the words of Christ from his cross-legged position on the floor, quite wrapped up in a thought. Sitting in his living room, with a steaming cup of tea to add to the atmosphere we talk well into the night about his work, philosophy, ideas, life and a myriad other things. A night-owl in the true sense – by day he sleeps, but come nightfall, he answers his calling to splash forth his soul on canvas.

Twenty-six-year-old Amaresh hails from Kandy where he has lived and worked for most of his life. Having nurtured the talent he discovered during his days at Trinity College, he is now firmly on the road to establishing himself amongst the ranks of artists in Sri Lanka.

Working from his home cum studio located within the University of Peradeniya, Amaresh eats, sleeps and breathes his work. “It is necessary sometimes,” he says, “but it is also important to be aware of it and try your best to balance your life, because otherwise you lose your way,” he explains. As our conversation progresses, and sifts through the rush of ideas that flow out of the man, it becomes apparent that the inner sanctum in which Amaresh -the artist- sometimes lives, is his vantage point from which he looks upon the world he paints.

Amaresh always knew he had the ability to draw. “I did my first composition based on the events surrounding the Maligawa bombing,” he says. “The success of that endeavour was what sparked my interest to pursue painting more seriously.” Through his father’s collection of art prints, a young Amaresh became acquainted with the masters of the ilk of Rembrandt and Monet. He explains that though some artistic technicalities are influenced by western art, the form and aura of his work are based very much on his own perceptions. Talking about the substance of his paintings he says, “I draw my inspiration from Sri Lankan culture,” and this is very evident in his work through which a strong Sri Lankan vibe emanates. Mudliyar Amarasekara and David Paynter are some of the Sri Lankan artists who made their mark on Amaresh.

“A vague thought or a feeling comes into my head,” says Amaresh of the beginnings of a painting. “Something of a frame with no clear image as such.” He explains that the ‘frame’, which he sees or more correctly, feels doesn’t make sense most often. “It just exists in my conscience. Wracking my brains to figure it out doesn’t work,” he says, “I just throw it to the back of my mind and let my subconscious work on it, and at some point it begins to come into perspective.” He explains that it is only when this frame intersects with reality that he can even think about applying the first strokes on canvas, “because without that understanding the frame is nothing, it is empty and there is nothing tangible to breathe life into the canvas”. His themes are by no means limited, ranging from paintings of still life to abstract almost psychedelic imagery. “The paintings are a reflection of my perceptions of real life,” he says as he explains the sometimes complex concepts and symbolism in his work.

His interests especially in the arts and literature are broad. “Drama, which I did a lot of while at school, has helped me greatly in my work,” he says. He explains that the whole exercise of studying, understanding and giving life to a character for stage helps him now, to probe and dissect a subject until he begins to live it. “This is important in painting because it gives substance, depth and a ‘realness’ to a drawing, not only visually but also conceptually.” He explains that in retrospect, his exposure to drama, music and religion have contributed immensely to his work on canvas.

“At the moment my work is more of a stepping stone to what I want to achieve ultimately,” he says, adding that “they’re somewhere in the middle of evolutionary process.” He explains that one day he hopes to be able to reach a level where through his work he can help people understand the true nature of things, “to see beyond the facade.” In this respect, social and religious issues are very close to Amaresh. After a recent visit to Jaffna he has become very keen on revisiting the region for a longer period of time.

“I’m hoping to continue my work there because I believe there is so much to be understood and said about what happened during the past few years.” Riding high on the success of his first two exhibitions held in Kandy, Amaresh has been toiling hard for the past three years on several compositions and is focusing on his third exhibition to be held in Colombo next year. Upon completion of this event he hopes he will be able to fulfill his dream of taking some of his future work to Jaffna.

Coming from a Christian background, Amaresh’s ties with his faith are strong. “Doing this sort of work is psychologically very demanding,” he says, “it’s a struggle through and through, but it is also the effort itself and my faith in God that keeps me going. They give me the energy and the drive to forge ahead.”


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