20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

We look at the Sri Lankan artists who are using their vision to sculpt and paint the vast culture and experiences that inhabit the country.

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

His paintings resemble a tropical scene of nature

Each of the many Sri Lankan artists that inhabit the country has a unique voice and artistic vision.

Their creations encompass a wide range of subjects, from individual experiences to social commentary, and are created in a variety of media, including digital collages, sculptures, and paintings.

These contemporary visionaries invite viewers to reflect on and interact with the intricacies of life and identity on the island by providing deep insights into the culture and history of Sri Lanka.

The country’s creative community never ceases to enthral and excite with its inventiveness.

From narrating the socio-political terrain of conflict to the subtleties of life in the digital era, who are the Sri Lankan artists redefining the artistic landscape? 

Jagath Weerasinghe

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Jagath Weerasinghe is one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent contemporary artists, well-known for his instrumental role in the ’90s movement.

This period was marked by conflict, which had a profound impact on both the country and its art scene, influencing Weerasinghe’s artistic journey.

He co-founded Theerta Collective and played a vital part in the Colombo Biennale, using his experiences, particularly those during the Sri Lankan Civil War, to create his artwork.

Although his signature black canvases embody his bold political statements on the war, Weerasinghe has embarked on a new artistic journey in recent times.

Through a series of drawings and poetry, he reveals a more subtle and romantic sensibility, diverging from his earlier emotionally charged and radical works.

Chathurika Jayani

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Chathurika Jayani is a renowned artist who has gained recognition for her exceptional paintings.

Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including in Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Nepal.

Jayan’s artistic style encompasses a wide range of expressions.

Her skill set is versatile, from abstract compositions to vibrant cityscapes. 

She utilises a unique combination of colours, intricate details, and mixed media to create narratives that are rich in dimension and texture, each of which reflects her deeply personal perspective.

Shanaka Kulathunga

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Shanaka Kulathunga is a well-known artist who has received recognition for his captivating artwork displayed throughout Sri Lanka.

He portrays a diverse range of aesthetic elements in his unique portraits, vividly depicting the varied lifestyles and personalities found in rural communities and among fashionable models.

Kulathunga’s artistic journey embodies a seamless fusion of traditional and contemporary themes, designs, and compositions.

His preferred medium is oils on canvas, which lends a timeless quality to his creations.

Sumali Piyatissa

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Sumali is a talented artist from Colombo, Sri Lanka who is self-taught.

Although she was initially trained as an accountant, her love for art drove her to pursue it as a full-time career.

Sumali enjoys exploring various mediums and textures, and her unique style of blending traditional techniques with contemporary mixed-media approaches is evident in her works.

Her artwork mainly leans towards abstraction.

She is inspired by nature and her travels, radiating themes of freedom, joy, and positivity.

Sumali’s art has been showcased at prestigious art fairs in Sri Lanka, London, Austria, Madrid, Switzerland, and Sweden.

She has also curated two solo exhibitions so far.

Currently, Sumali sells her creations on international platforms and collaborates with interior designers on various projects, extending her artistic reach.

Deshan Rajeewa Samarasiri

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Deshan Rajeewa Samarasiri has showcased his paintings in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the country.

His striking abstract works draw inspiration from the intricate shapes, patterns, colours, and sounds found in nature.

Samarasiri attributes the colour schemes of his compositions to reflect his mood at the time of creation, adding depth and personal connection to each piece.

His preferred medium for expression is acrylics on canvas.

Sujeewa Kumari

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

After completing her studies at the Dutch Art Institute in the Netherlands, Kumari began exploring her experimental tendencies as a modern female artist.

Drawing on her experiences in a post-colonial setting, Kumari looks at female identity.

Using thought-provoking methods, she expresses her viewpoint as a woman in Sri Lanka.

Her recent artistic endeavours have expanded to include contemplations on recollections entwined with customs, history, and the reality of daily existence.

While she works in a variety of media, such as performance art, video installations, and collages created with digital photography, her mixed-media drawings are particularly notable.

Adopting a surrealist approach, Kumari lets the audience into her imaginative, but grounded, world.

Abdul Halik Azeez

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Halik Azeez began his professional career as a journalist and strategic consultant before moving on to independent research, specialising in critical discourse analysis and hate speech.

His research attempts led him to pursue a photography career, using social media platforms to display his photographic work.

After a well-received 2014 exhibition, Azeez combined his expertise as an artist and scholar to produce photographs that depicted the changing face of modern-day Sri Lanka.

His perspective leaned toward the social and cultural dynamics of urban poor and oppressed minority groups.

His artistic perspective was directly informed by the insights he gained from his study, which involved documenting the firsthand experiences of individuals affected by urban development.

Through a personal lens, Azeez navigates his surroundings, weaving narratives that blur the lines between reality and conceptualisation.

Pakkiyarajah Pushpakanthan

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Pushpakanthan graduated from the University of Jaffna with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Pushpakanthan’s artwork intentionally evokes a disquieting mood for viewers.

His personal experiences from the Sri Lankan Civil War serve as his source of inspiration.

Exploring deeply ingrained memories of torture, death, disappearances, and injuries, the artist uses his works as a vehicle to reveal the horrific realities of the past and to create a space for group grieving and healing.

Instead of looking for clear solutions or answers, he negotiates perceptual alterations in the hopes that onlookers will understand the tragedy and its importance.

Nuwan Nalaka

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Nalaka is a budding artist well-known for his watercolour creations on paper.

He has shown his artwork in multiple shows all over India since 2003 but returned to Sri Lanka after earning his Master’s Degree. 

When he looks back on his time in India, he says it was a transformative experience that gave him a new viewpoint different from his Sri Lankan background.

Likewise, it expanded his awareness of contemporary Indian society.

Nalaka has been producing monochromatic landscapes on rice paper and canvas that capture iconic scenes from Sri Lanka’s Central Province.

The calligraphic poetry in these works is derived from the folklore of the region.

Nalaka creates compositions that are visually arresting by combining vivid imagery, calligraphy, and symbols on textured papers while utilising conventional painting techniques.

Hanusha Somasunderam

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Somasunderam graduated from The University of Jaffna with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Her research examines the predicament and battles that Sri Lankan tea estate workers have endured for more than a century.

Her personal experiences are reflected in the items that are commonly used to make tea.

She uses these items as sculptural material, using images of people, locations, and objects to tell stories.

Her unique series, which contrasts the strain on the people in her neighbourhood with the stains on their lives, uses strainers and stained tea bags.

Sanjaya Geekiyanage

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Geekiyange received her degree in sculpture from the University of Visual and Performing Arts.

After studying metal sculpting, he chose to work with copper as his material.

He read a tonne of science-related books during his educational path to understand copper and how to apply various colours to its surface.

His deliberate destruction of his sculptures sets them apart from others.

He reconstructs them, making them look like a pencil sketch, after the devastation.

Raja Segar

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

The paintings of Sri Lankan artist Raja Segar have been shown in South Korea.

He investigates subjects in music and dance, as well as aspects of Sri Lankan daily life, through his artistic creations.

Segar has a unique style that combines abstract elements with figurative cubism.

He mostly uses collage, acrylics, and oils on canvas or paper in his creations.

Anura Srinath

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Anura Srinath is a multi-talented artist who excels in various art forms such as painting, illustration, cartooning, and poetry.

He has a unique ability to adapt to any desired colour or shade, demonstrating his versatility in his craft.

Anura is an outstanding Sri Lankan artist who is dedicated to perfectionism, driven by his profound passion for art.

Anura’s talent extends beyond just drawing and painting.

He can bring your visions to life, no matter the medium.

With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to fulfilling your artistic desires, Anura is more than an artist; he is a bridge that connects your creative aspirations to their tangible expressions.

Dilantha Upul Rajapaksha

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Dilantha Upul Rajapaksha is a painter and sculptor from Sri Lanka whose works have been shown in national and international exhibitions.

He uses acrylics and charcoal on canvas to create his unique portraits, which blend realism and abstraction to convey an “inner spirit” in each piece.

Rajapaksha describes his compositions as containing many untold experiences and thoughts that he endeavours to share with the world.

Priyantha Udagedara

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Udagedara received her PhD from Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK in contemporary fine art practice.

His paintings resemble a tropical scene of nature when viewed from a distance.

But up close, the subject becomes a mosaic of human and animal body parts mixed with paint splatters.

His watercolour hybrid monsters, which combine human and monster shapes in striking detail and colour, convey a mixture of beauty and misery.

His Herbal Garden series addresses Sri Lanka’s expanding sex business.

Traditional government organisations mainly ignore the sex business and disregard the persistent problem of gender-based violence.

Gayan Prageeth

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

2009 saw Prageeth receive her degree from the Colombo University of Visual and Performing Arts.

He quickly rose to the top of the island’s up-and-coming artist scene.

The events of July 1983, popularly referred to as “Black July”, have an impact on most of his works. The 26-year-long Civil War officially began on this day.

His “Since 1983” work from 2016 features several buckets that symbolise the many methods used to identify Tamil people.

Attackers would ask suspects what the name of the bucket was; Sinhalese would say it one way, and Tamils another.

Prageeth’s work is characterised by a persistent exploration of lost memories and futures, and the events of Black July are consistently evident.

Muvindu Binoy

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Muvindu Binoy’s creative endeavours primarily focus on digital collage and filmmaking.

Binoy utilises the vast expanse of the internet as his primary repository for crafting collages that delve into the fissures of our social fabric, the intricacies of fate, and the paradoxes of online existence.

His works are infused with elements of absurdist humour and unsettling truths.

Through the manipulation of digital imagery, Binoy explores themes such as gender, agency, societal norms, and the dichotomies of modern life.

Binoy’s artistic merit has garnered recognition, earning him prestigious residencies such as the Cité Internationales des Arts in France (2021) and the Ya Connect Artist-in-Residence in Sri Lanka (2019). 

Kasun Wickramasinghe

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Award-winning Sri Lankan painter Kasun Wickramasinghe has had paintings shown both domestically and in Bhutan.

His modern abstract pieces frequently use geometric shapes and are rife with symbolism.

Wickramasinghe depicts the natural environment in a fantasy way, even though his artistic expression is influenced by it.

He likes to work with acrylics on canvas.

Nihal Weligama

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

Paintings by Sri Lankan artist Nihal Weligama have been displayed across the country.

His characteristic figurative paintings draw inspiration from Sri Lankan culture and the natural world.

Additionally, abstractionism has an impact on Weligama’s creative work.

He prefers to use acrylic paints on canvas to create his philosophically driven artwork.

Pathmal Yahampath

20 Best Contemporary Artists from Sri Lanka

A young sculptor from Sri Lanka named Pathmal Yahampath has shown his work in Colombo.

By exploring playful poses and observing cultural standards, he strikes a balance in his quest to convey a certain dignity and majesty in his sculptures.

Yahampath’s major components are iron and copper, and the heavy metal rods that are welded together are shaped like the human muscular system.

Sri Lanka’s vast and varied artistic environment is evidence of both the people’s tenacity and the depth of their cultural legacy.

We are given insights into the intricacies of Sri Lankan society – from its turbulent past to its dynamic present – through the creations of these gifted artists.

Every artist addresses identity, memory, social justice, and the human condition from a different point of view. 

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Instagram & Twitter. co

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