CRAFTING POTENT NARRATIVES
We recognize artist Irushi Tennekoon for her evocative artistic pursuit in bringing forward social transgressions and empowering personalities through skilfully crafted clay figurines. Recognized on ARTRA’s Artist of the Month on ARTRA Magazine Oct/Nov E48 2019, Irushi was commended for her ability to narrate social and ethical issues through vibrant and animated illustrations, idiosyncratically and uniquely of which her work bridged the gap between fantasy and reality. Irushi Tennekoon has represented Sri Lanka at several international workshops and festivals including the Room to Read Global Illustrators’ Online Workshop in October 2020 and many Women of the World festivals including that of which took place in London in March 2020 and Nepal, 2019. Her short film ’83 has won the ‘Best Animated Film’ award at the Agenda14 Film Festival in Colombo in 2016. The film was also screened at the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh in 2018 as part of the ‘One Hundred Thousand Small Tales’ exhibition curated by Sharmini Pereira and was a part of the inaugural exhibition of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka.
Irushi Tennekoon is an educator, animator and illustrator who is currently completing her Master’s in English Studies at the University of Colombo. She has been an illustrator on several published works including a book written by A. Pushparaj for the initiative, ‘Room to Read’. Her inherent passion for artistry in animation and illustration began as a medium of comprehending her musings and day-to-day life. Upon publishing these works on her social media platforms, Irushi’s career in the arts received momentum. Irushi began her journey as an illustrator for Marrianne Johnpillai’s ‘Pestering Annie’ and rose to recognition for her first stopmotion film made in collaboration with Sumedha Kelegama and Sumudu Athukorala.
Irushi’s most recent series of work, ‘Animate Her’ follows the stories of successful women in varied industries across Sri Lanka. The significance of Irushi’s work lays in her sheer dexterity in detail and nuanced presentation that unpacks descriptive categories while giving an equal footing to a diversity of interpretive possibilities. “Looking back, selecting the women who I would interview for this project turned out to be the most interesting part of the process. Marine biologist Asha de Vos, tech wiz and CEO Lakmini Wijesundera and Children’s author-illustrator Sybil Wettasinghe have been my personal heroines for as long as I can remember. I chose Architect Amila de Mel and Lawyer/activist Ramani Muttettuwegama after doing some research and learning about how important their work has been in their respective fields. Thaji Dias’s story of how her grandfather Guru Chitrasena brought traditional dance forms from its village ritual setting to the modern stage, and the manner through which her family is striving to preserve this form was another crucial story that I wanted to highlight through the animation series.”
The series is a six-part installation that depicts women of Irushi’s discretion through stop-motion animation of figures carved in clay, scenes and sets manufactured to represent a period of the story, each pieced together to create inventive short-films. “As a self-taught animator, one of my main objectives is to try and experiment and learn as much as possible,” she explained. Irushi’s artistry is unique and transcendent in its distinctive elements such as crafting, sculpting, photography and animation thereby allowing her to play with a myriad of techniques in promoting her artistic agenda. She states, “In my film based on architect Amila de Mel, I have used a combination of 2D digital animation, built cardboard houses, clay puppets, used cotton wool for smoke and hair gel for water”.
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