Shakya Tennakoonmudali

Inspired by art, history, culture and film, emerging artist Shakya Tennakoonmudali’s work is an alternate perspective of his observation versus his interpretation. Through a collection of digitally drawn movie posters presenting his own narrative of the film’s plot, his exhibition ‘Technicolour Popcorn’ was virtually showcased recently. The significance of a movie poster to its subsequent counterparts from the trailers to the movie is that of its ability to portray the thematic notions of the film’s plot while attracting the audience and stimulating their interest by amplifying the concept behind the cinematic piece. A movie poster, in essence, lends creative insight; introducing its characters, setting, or scenery in a sense of abstract comprehension. In our conversation with Shakya Tennakoonmudali, he explores the concept of cinematic posters and their representation of symbolic nuances each film stands for as well as discussing his inspirations, and his journey in the art industry.

Artist Shakya Tennakoonmudali graduated from Benares Hindu University, India for Fine Arts. Some of Shakya’s accolades include being a passionate illustrator and a skilled image manipulator as consequence of years of experience working as an intern at Ogilvy Action (Geometry global) and an Art Director at J. Walter Thompson Sri Lanka and Dentsu Aegis Network, Sri Lanka. He currently works as a freelance creative artist specializing in illustrations & Logo design for international clients and is highly skilled in Graphic design, Drawing and Illustrations. Shakya is also thoroughly knowledgeable on the understanding of Typography and Serigraph Printing Skilled in Story boarding and video editing as well as photography.

Q | What inspired your journey in the arts and how did it begin?

My mother tells me that I used to draw on the walls since I was 3-years old. They had plastered the walls with A4 sheets so I could draw freely. I also remember that during lunch, I was more excited to get my hands on the lunch packet paper than the lunch itself, so I could draw on that sheet of paper.  My first and most distinctive memory with movies is watching 'Terminator' as a 7-year-old and feeling devastated when Terminator was crushed at the end of the movie. I was so moved; I bawled my eyes out. The movie’s special effects, CGI and stunts gave me an experience that I still cherish. I have been hooked on films ever since. I used to draw movie scenes during school periods. I used to imagine film sequences and drew sequel posters. In school I was heavily involved in all things related to drawing and art – be it set decorations, drama make up, designing/caricatures in the big match souvenir, school landscape paintings and participating in art exhibitions every year. When I was around 14-years old, I started visiting a Pettah shop to buy CDs for a cheaper price. There I got the opportunity to design film and wrestling VCD covers. I guess that was my first job! For my bachelors, I enrolled in Banaras Hindu University (India) specializing in Applied Arts.

Q | What was the premise behind the concept behind this body of work and what does it mean?

I have always been fascinated with film posters. There was a criticism in the Hollywood poster industry, that more and more film posters and its compositions look alike because posters were mainly created using photo manipulations. For example, most indie-film posters used a yellow background, comedy film posters centred around red and white colours, sci-fi film posters used blue and red while action films used black, white and orange for its posters. As a result, most Hollywood film posters had a repetitive look and feel. However, in the past (1940 -1980), all posters have been hand drawn, as a result, each poster had a unique flavour depending on the artist’s interpretation of the movie. I have been following an art style called ‘mondo’ for a long time and it is the main inspiration for my film poster work. ‘Mondo’ posters are all digitally hand drawn. They started out drawing fan art; today, they are a professional group of designers who draws posters for iMax releases. As a follower of this style, I too was expressing my emotions and what I felt after watching a movie. When I checked out old Sinhala movies, I realized I couldn’t find any actual posters, but only a few shots in the movie were put together. That is why I mainly enjoyed recreating old film posters.

Q | What mediums do you use in your work?

I draw digitally using a tablet. There are a couple of posters which I have hand drawn in this exhibition. I first draw a sketch-using pen and paper, then digitally render it and then colour it.

Q | Who are some of your inspirations and muses?

Mondo art style; I like how they inject a fresh and very specific flavour to each movie, depending on its theme and plot.  Drew Struza’s work; he is the artist who created all the famous movie posters from ‘Indiana Jones’ to ‘Star Wars’, ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Harry potter’ to ‘Shawshank Redemption’. And ‘James Jean’, a Taiwanese-American visual artist working primarily in painting and drawing. Some of his movie posters are ‘Mother’, ‘Shape of Water’ and ‘Blade runner 2045’.

Q | In your opinion, what of the digital art industry do you most admire and where do you believe it has potential to grow?

The main advantage I see working digitally is that you can work on a painting without having a studio. When drawing digitally, the space does not matter. To start out, all you need is a small tablet. With the coronavirus, we have been compelled to move everything to a digital space. I believe we will see more and more virtual exhibitions and digital painting auctions in the future. There is also an increasing interest in digital assets through NFTs (Non-fungible token), which I am hopeful for. Even though I am a movie-buff, I believe less and less people will be visiting cinema halls. People will take up watching films from their homes through TV/laptop/phone or some new device.

The ideology behind presenting and portraying alternate interpretations to a film and its plot, a storyline showcased introspectively becomes that which a viewer may comprehend uniquely; Shakya Tennakoonmudali depicts these interpretations creatively. From ‘Asandhimitta’ (2019), a digitally drawn poster showcasing figures and silhouettes of the significant characters of the film caught in a web of thrilling turmoil to ‘Gindari’ (2022) where the artist illustrates an animated, sci-fi feel to the originally comedic film, ‘Technicolour Popcorn’ becomes a narration of the artist’s perspective, a retelling of storylines. An adventurous storyteller, Shakya Tennakoonmudali initiates new ideas and explores various methods of art styles as he believes in delivering visual design ‘solutions’ to human problems.

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17th July, 2021 Visual Art | Paintings