A SEARCH FOR CONNECTIVITY
Art Exhibition by Rupaneethan Pakkiyarajah at Paradise Road Galleries
Born in 1991 in Batticaloa, Rupaneethan Pakkiyarajah is a visual artist and a teacher of Sculpture and Drawing at the Swami Vipulananda Institute of Aesthetic Studies of the Eastern University in Sri Lanka. Specializing in sculpture, he completed his bachelor’s degree in art and Design at the University of Jaffna in 2016, going on to participate in the “9th Episode of URONTO Residential Art Exchange Programme” in Bangladesh.
The artworks by Rupaneethan Pakkiyarajah take on landscapes and land-based conflicts, alongside the construction of identity in Sri Lanka. This work observes how landscapes can embody caste, class, race, and religious identities of people. On the other hand, it explores how landscapes can offer space for difference and interdependency between people, and the possibility for collective identity where connections can be forged across borders and divisions.
The struggle for status and power in society begin with division and the dominance of one group over another. It begins with the empowering of men over women. At the national level, it is the designation of one group as more legitimate and, by extension, as holding the right to control the national narrative. In Sri Lanka, complicated constructions of identity – those based on language, land, and religions – have fueled conflict and its accompanying torture, rape, and murder for more than forty years. Those excluded from the national discourse, or otherwise disempowered, have been forced into the margins or to flee the country in an effort of self-preservation.
There is a complicated interplay between humans and nature that envelops these relationships between people. In this vein, he observes the human-made interweaving of relationships created by electrical and telephone wires crisscrossing land and country— linking paddy fields, gardens, forests, hills, huts, houses, apartments, public buildings, monuments, towers, churches, mosques, temples, stupas, islands, ponds, rivers, lagoons and so on. In the decade since the civil war ended, such infrastructural connections have increased exponentially. At the same time,and as a partial consequence of ever greater human connectivity, natural forests have been significantly destroyed.
The bomb blasts in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka in 2019, commonly called the Easter bombings, have heightened communal anxieties and borders between communities are becoming increasingly visible. People seek safety among those of their own identity and lands become fractured again. Since last year, the COVID 19 pandemic has compounded distances between individual human beings. Yet the wires of connectivity remain. As a person accountable to this national community, he uses different materials in his art works, to investigate community-based identity, his own identity, and the role of nature in shaping identity, with the hope of uncovering flexible or permeable spaces capable of connecting both land and peoples.
Paradise Road Galleries have opened doors to this exhibition on Thursday, April 1st. The exhibition would be open to public from the 1st of April to the 28th of April.