Impermanence of the canvas
G Wathuwalagedera is an artist with sensitive pencil drawings and
paintings. The colours intermingle with powerful artistic expressionism.
He was born in 1953 and started his professional career almost in
1959. Throughout his career, of more than 50 years, he has kept a
sequence of artistic marks within this country as well as abroad. He
became matured through a plenty of zones or institutions in art such as
Ceylon Society of Art, Government College of Fine Arts, the University
of Visual and Performing Arts, St. Martin's School of Art in London,
School of Art Institute in Chicago, Pratt Institute in New York,
Hindustan Thompson's Bombay Office and the Australian Collage of
business and Technology. He will launch a solo exhibition on December
11, 12 and 13 at the Lionel Wendt Art Galery.
Q: Most of your black and white pencil sketches (except the
women's portraits and nudes) surface a certain gloomy feeling of
suffocation, suppression and pain. Why do you think you have created
such a paranoid essence in them?
A: Some of them have been done a long time ago when I was a
student. You call them light drawings. Some of them were sketched while
I was in London or New York. A large number of them have been done in
Sri Lanka. Yet I can't exactly remember when. Anyway I know it is 10-15
years ago when I was living alone in Kandy. There I had go look after
one of my lands. I was sick of the job. And I had to live a different
kind of life there. Consequently, I had a plenty of leisure time there.
So I let myself draw. I just started on a paper and things just came out
with various tones of my hidden feelings such as melancholy or weirdness
or something very unpleasant to the common eye or frightening. I don't
know why. Anyway it came through the way of my nerves and blood.
And I draw as long as it is aesthetically pleasing me for I do
drawings basically for my own pleasure. And look, these drawings or
paintings also get devalued with time. They even can be thrown out. I
don't mind whether the spectator destroys or throws them away. I, most
of the time, never look at some my paintings for the second time. I
don't have any conscience on them. I stay with them as soon as they
please me only, especially in the exact time when I do the drawing.
I can say it was an agonizing period of my life. I was without a job.
And financially I was down and had to live alone in an estate. I was
passing a very rough period in my life. Most probably those
circumstances must have influenced me unconsciously or consciously to
these expressions. And you will find some of them as exactly as
political statements. Yes I express suppression, sadness, exploitation
and suffering through out them. Anyway this happened about twenty years
Q: You have found a modern painting technique of your own
through a blend of realistic and absurd styles that appeared early in
Europe. What is your consciousness of making a modern style or technique
of your own?
A: I don't consciously develop a technique or style. I don't
want to have a style of my own. And I am not conscious of it anymore.
What I am doing is let myself draw until something comes out. And you
have the liberty to say whatever you see or feel. Main thing is it
should aesthetically please me.
We have been corrupt by going to schools and studying paintings. I
always wanted to be independent though I have studied all formal art.
You should have a highly cultivated taste developed indirectly with
influence of other paintings and painters.
Q: The sexual thinking of some of your paintings seems to be
inspired from the Freudian dimension called Oedipus complex. What is
A: The word 'erotic' sounds vulgar. There is a big different
between vulgarity and refined taste. Artists always look at it in a
different point of view away from this vulgarity. Drawing a nude hasn't
any pornographic effect.
I don't consider sex as a great activity. Consciously I have never
done anything sexual in my art. I never think of sex when I paint. It is
very insignificant to me. What is more important is the statement you
draw in the canvas. It is something aesthetically pleasing. Besides I
did not want to highlight sex in my art.
For instance if you paint nude, it is very interesting and absolutely
pleasing because it has a lot of shapes, forms in the anatomy and the
rhythm of the body. You should have a better discipline to do it.
That is the reason most senior art students have been given a special
class to draw nude. Because the woman's nude is very beautiful. When you
look at it, you look at it in a different point of view. I can be alone
with nude women in a room as an artist without having any sexual
impression. I look at it in a different perspective. I look at the
forms, shapes, rhythm and movements.
The male nude is also equally beautiful in this sense. Sometimes it
can be more beautiful. Elements of sex don't actually come in here. It
is the beauty we admire just like we look at a flower.
Q: You have been painting for more than 50 years. You have
gone through both formal as well as informal educational practice. Which
made you build a painting style of your own?
A: My education helped me a great deal to develop my painting
career. It gave me courage, confidence and exposure to me to be able to
do what I want in a canvas. It makes me mature in my paintings. Yet I
don't allow myself to think of other artists or any group of art or any
educational practice when I am involved in painting. I don't want to be
I just want to do something nice and beautiful, that's all. I don't
want to have a style whereby people will look at it and say: 'Ah here it
is Picasso or someone else'.
People might look and find a 'Watuwalagedara' style. Yet, look,
everything is impermanent. My canvases will be destroyed in a day. I
will also die. So what is the point in developing a big ego on myself?