Preeti Hapuwatte

A work of art speaks to its viewer and communicates to the observer, an onlooker through how the chemistry between individual elements on the canvas interact and create an image of the artist’s vision. Preethi Hapuwatte’s most recent exhibition, ‘Dots and Lines’, showcased at the Barefoot Gallery, Colombo was a consequence of the artist’s incentive to express herself during a particularly isolated moment of time during a period of quarantine as a result of the pandemic. What stemmed from this time of inspiration became an array of canvas paintings that depicted figures of human beings and abstract silhouettes of nature and animals. The thematic significance portrayed through these works of art takes centre stage as its design elements, dots and lines, create a conversation within the painting. We conversed with Preethi about her works and that which stimulated the inspiration to paint ‘Dots and Lines’ while we discerned the design principles and intricacy of methodology used, from colour to composition.

Throughout her career, Preethi Hapuwatte has held 11 solo exhibitions. The artist has been a member of the George Keyt Foundation for many years while being actively involved in the foundation’s Nawa Kalakaruwo exhibitions locally and internationally. Preethi was also the Barefoot Gallery’s Design Director for 28 years until last year before she took time off to travel. In fact, Preethi’s career in the art industry dates back to 1972 when she joined Barefoot as an assistant to celebrated artist Barbara Sansoni, “Mrs Barbara Sansoni was a great influence in my life - she encouraged me to paint all the time. My unusual creations for Barefoot were liked by all the customers and export buyers. The George Keyt Foundation gave me a chance to exhibit my paintings and I have taken part in many of their international artist camps. In turn, I have interacted with both local and international artists from other countries,” explained Preethi.


Painting is one of Preethi’s greatest joys and is known to be completely at ease and peace during the creative process, a source of meditation. Each of her exhibitions take on different themes reflecting on what she feels and how she thinks at specific moments in time. ‘Dots and Lines’ was conceived and created as the artist’s exploration of what it means to live through these exceptional times with hope and joy, an expression of her very own feelings experienced during the period of quarantine. Having returned from Australia from visiting her family, Preethi had to remain isolated as per regulations for 28 days. These 28 days became a critical period of introspection as we see her work represent all that she felt. Monochromatic paintings in black and white to depict her melancholic moments and a collection of colours in paintings that reflect joy. The recurring theme between each work of art, as the title suggests, is its exhibition of dots and lines; a constant element of design depicted on each canvas, as a collection of dots and lines work together in asymmetrical choreography to make up a semi-abstract image. 

Through ink, watercolour on paper and acrylic on canvas, the texture and pattern on each work of art is a dialogue of the artist’s inner conversation transpiring sentiment into the consciousness of the observer. Yet, it is simple in its comprehension, a series of works that are aesthetically pleasing portrayed through intricately shaped dots and lines, patterns arranged whimsically and artistically to present narratives of human faces and abstractly shaped animals, figures emphasized by shape and colour. Preethi hails from an environment surrounded by creativity and art, each notion and concept of her works comes easily to her, from her involvement in painting and textiles, the artist is intrinsically seeped in the arts. “Growing up in a very creative family was fun. We made our own toys, leather bags, jewellery and clothes etc. We also did many paintings individually and learned from each other. We were always experimenting and turning out items for our household use or just for enjoyment,” said Preethi.  

Her twelfth exhibition, ‘Dots and Lines’ was exhibited at the Barefoot Gallery from the 30th of April to the 16th of May. The particular forms of dots and lines are those adored by the artist and can be seen in many of her works narrating alternate stories and themes. Preethi’s passion to exhibit works that are authentic to herself and draws on personal experiences and depicts subjective narratives as she grapples with the changing times. When one glances upon her works, they are understood as one that comprehends an inner thought. Through these dots and lines, figures take shape in an array of colours and becomes that which the artist is.  

17th May, 2021 Visual Art | Paintings