As we celebrate ARTRA’s Emerging Artists | Best of 2020, we look to ARTRA Canvas’ artist Pulasthi Handunge who’s shown robust potency in his works throughout the year. Pulasthi Handunge was first featured on ARTRA Canvas’ debut exhibition that showcased the works of artists from all nine provinces of the island on their response to the pandemic. Pulasthi’s series of works depicted that of the society’s interpretation to a deeper consciousness of uncertainty and anxiety. Notably, Pulasthi is also a part of the group that won the opportunity to design the Beach Sculpture, exploring the thematic significance of dreams and the narrative of change as told by the great Greek philosopher Heraclitus, for Port City Colombo. In partnership with ARTRA, Port City Colombo’s Student Design Competition was a stride forward in bringing forth art’s potential in stimulating the minds of passers-by in public spaces of which ARTRA mentored the finalists about the significance of reflecting art, culture and heritage in their design submissions to elevate the public commissions to those of monuments sharing the nation’s cultural influence while representing the Sri Lankan heritage in burgeoning urban scapes.
Visual artist Pulasthi Handunge was born and raised in Kandy. He completed his education at Trinity College and obtained his Bachelor of Architecture in 2019. Pulasthi’s specialty lies in the art of watercolour where he mastered his skill under the mentorship of artist M.D.S Gunetilleke. Pulasthi’s works of art are interpretations of his surrounding translated through watercolours, ink, colour pencils and acrylic. He has been part of several group exhibitions held at the Alliance Francais de Kandy in 2006, 2007 and 2008 as well as his debut solo exhibition ‘Rhythm of Strokes’ in 2010. Pulasthi Handunge is recognized for his intent to influence and impact the onlooker through philosophical notions while simultaneously celebrating the Sri Lankan identity. The concept of ‘Lodiya’ derives from the historical era of King Vijaya’s landing and the lifestyle implemented during that epoch. As he interprets the change of attitude within the Sri Lankan personality, his submission reflects the notion. “The objective of the sculpture is to link the past, present and the future creating a dream like experience, ever changing with the ability to be interpreted differently based on the viewer,” he said. Pulasthi’s medium of expression allows him to present these distinctions articulately while simultaneously influencing his audience deeper intent of bringing forth traditional concepts to contemporary settings.
‘Poetry Of The Sri Lankan Eyes’, showcased on ARTRA Canvas’s debut exhibition as Pulasthi’s response to the pandemic is a pictorial narration of society’s reaction to the impact of the pandemic and the degree of its effects on humanity. “In this series of paintings, I express the severity of Covid-19 in affecting our country, and the world, to a devastating magnitude. Faces truly reflect the emotions of people, so I drew faces of people from varying ethnic backgrounds, social situations and beliefs to depict their anxieties, hope and fear. I wanted the eyes to be the window to their soul,” he explained.
“These paintings were done on newspapers and I used watercolor to draw the faces. The selected pages of the newspapers that were used to draw upon were taken from a magazine dedicated to advertising, which depicts promotional content from different categories of businesses such as lands, vehicles, houses and more. I used this particular newspaper as I wanted to symbolically convey the rampant consumer culture and the extent to which it has risen in prominence in the last few decades” shared the artist. Pulasthi’s attentive creative process presents the responses in its authenticity that which interestingly preceded the consequences of the pandemic. His choice of a minimalist colour palette creates a focal point on the canvas and highlights the significant idiosyncrasies of his detailed drawing. From each indention of the ink and acrylic on the newspaper to the curve of the figure’s facial presentation, Pulasthi’s dexterity applied in his works of art allows viewers to engage deeply with the presented subjects.
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