By Mayanthie Jayasinghe

A painter, sculptor, potter and a master in all three fields of art, Sarath Chandrajeewa identifies himself quite aptly as a ‘Visual Artist’.

Hailing from Nuwara Eliya, he chose to develop his inherent talents in art and after obtaining a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Kelaniya University, he continued to pursue his artistic studies and obtained a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Institute of Fine Arts, Moscow.

Sarath’s professional motto is “to create and not replicate” thus his solo exhibitions are not only presentations of talent but also create far reaching ripples. His first solo exhibition in 1990 titled Creations in Terracotta was held at a time when the traditional pottery craft was being stifled. Infusing new thinking into this traditional craft, he used traditional designs in creations that inspired many other innovative designers. He ensured the revival of the craft by making his private studio at Dankotuwa a training centre for pottery during this period.

The style he adopts as a painter is abstract with no identifiable reference to the visible world but where nature’s principles and forces are depicted very sensitively. A striking feature of his paintings is the use of textures to enhance and complement the colours used. His artistic compositions experiment successfully with oil, acrylic, jute and canvas or tar and aluminium, copper sheet and jute on board – all creating memorable impacts.

Sarath considers bronze casting as the medium in which his creative strength is contained. It was this art medium he chose for his PhD thesis titled “Bodhisatva Avalokiteswara from Veheragala, Sri Lanka”. He recalls that the first time he saw bronze sculptures was when he came to pay his last respects to Dr. Senarat Paranavitane at the Art gallery. So it was a true achievement to hold his second exhibition Hundred Impressions in Bronze at the same venue a few years later in 1994. The exhibit consisted of portraits of eminent Sri Lankan persons and actor Jackson Anthony once commented that Sarath captures “not only the outward shape but also the inner thoughts and visions of his subject.”

Currently, Sarath Chandrajeewa is recognized as the most distinctive figure in the field of contemporary Sri Lankan Sculpture after Tissa Ranasinghe, a comparison he is justifiably proud of as Ranasinghe is his guru and mentor. It is also noteworthy that Sarath’s bust of Sir Christopher Ondaatje is the only work of a Sri Lankan displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The artist is currently working on a gigantic project commissioned by the Catholic Church to re-create the History of Christianity in Sri Lanka in 46 bronze panels, each 4’ x 6’ in dimension. This work will be a permanent display at the Tewatta Basilica, Ragama.

Sarath’s message to young artists is clear as reflected in his book, Path of Visual Arts – Sarath Chandrajeewa: “Show what you feel within yourself. Read the poetry that lies within the land, and give it form and celebrate its heritage. Be true to yourself, and your artistic expression will surely flow, unending. Persevere with your work and the world will listen eventually”.