Mohamed Hathi | ARTRA’s Emerging Artist Best of 2023

Hailing from Sainthamaruthu in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, Mohamed Hathi is ARTRA’s Emerging Artist | Best of 2023. His mesmerizing approach to art carries across the canvas, his dark and striking motifs weighted by the depth of his themes, rendering each work into a resounding cry for social advocacy. Hathi completed his education at Jaffna University, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design, and demonstrates an uncanny ability to boldly address social, institutional, and political issues in succinct format through visual mediums.

In 2020, Hathi’s bold artistry piqued the interest of ARTRA when he was featured at ARTRA Canvas’ debut exhibition during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The exhibition was an initiative that drew together contemporary artists from all 9 provinces across Sri Lanka, displaying their thematic responses to the pandemic through a diverse array of mediums ranging from acrylic, digital art, and pencil sketching to mixed media. It provided a platform for creative expression for local emerging artists from all walks of life. Hathi’s collection displayed a striking insight into his innermost psyche, painting vivid depictions of trauma and grief amidst the hemorrhaging change of the global disease. His art, in all its disturbing and dark components, spoke profoundly to the physical as well as psychological dimensions of the pandemic’s impact and the magnitude of its calamity. 

Following his initiation through ARTRA Canvas, Hathi was integrated into the ARTRA Collection and has continued to refine his style and skill over the subsequent years. His latest collection ‘Resilience and Resistance’ delves into a disease of a different kind– the systemic oppression of women. Moved profoundly by the experiences of women in his life, Hathi tackles the complex and harrowing realities of gender discrimination on both an individual and institutionalized scale in this country and beyond as his art touches on themes of violence against women, social and political critique, and the inherent misogynist biases that are normalized in the fabric of societies around the world.

Through the lens of contemporary art, Hathi delves into a fascinating point of view as he identifies and disseminates social structures that serve to discriminate, harm, and marginalize women from the perspective of a witness. He foregrounds the female figure in his works, his depictions ranging across the abstracted silhouette to realistic portraits rendered in painstaking detail. As a mixed-media artist, Hathi’s paintings are diverse refractions of his larger feminist themes, rife with symbolism that evokes the inherent resilience of women oppressed by societal and institutionalized forces. His work Resilience and Resistance VIII depicts colourful androgynous silhouettes scattered within a home and foregrounds the immutable fact that concepts of prejudice such as misogyny can originate from and be perpetuated by the home. In rendering a series of androgynous figures, Hathi evokes the notion that misogynistic prejudice can be internalized and enacted by people regardless of their gender, and touches on the idea that the domestic space and rigid roles of convention within the nuclear family often perpetuate the undervaluing and maltreatment of women and girls. Other pieces in his collection compound on this broad approach to addressing complex issues, his work Resilience and Resistance III draws the eye to a bare figure of a woman bound in rope. Like most of his female figures, this everywoman is faceless, yet it is her blankness that compels through her ability to project the normalized social and psychological realities of misogyny. The visual paints a chilling scene, conveying the depth of violation women face under the patriarchy, calling to mind haunting imagery of abuse women face under institutional bodies and within domestic spaces. His collection also features portraits of prominent feminist icons of the modern day such as female education activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai in a powerful depiction of women’s resistance in the face of oppression. His work stands as a frontline testament that the issues of gender discrimination are all-encompassing– that one does not have to be harmed by oppression to know that it is harmful. To view his catalog of works, as well as those of our Emerging Artists under the ARTRA Collection click here

ARTRA Collection was formulated to showcase Sri Lankan contemporary art in a curated format across public spaces. It showcases Emerging Artists from regions outside of the focal artistic hemisphere of Colombo, to cultivate regional epicentres of art across the country, where a diverse range of artists can voice their alternate narratives of the story of Sri Lanka. Each artist under the ARTRA Collection was selected under rigorous criteria including strength of concept, articulation and execution, professionalism, and unique identity. To read more about the vision behind the ARTRA Collection and the rest of our roster of Emerging Artists, click here

Mohamed Hathi is a full-time artist who commissions his work locally and internationally. He was recognized as an emerging artist in ARTRA Magazine's Art & Quarantine, Edition 54, June 2020. In 2024, his latest collection ‘Resilience and Resistance’ debuted at the Art Trail, Galle Literary Festival, showcasing his works on a national scale alongside ARTRA’s Emerging Artists | Best of 2020, 2022 & 2023. His works in this collection were also featured in ARTRA Magazine’s latest edition ‘Galle Fort in the Contemporary’ e66. His works are currently exhibited at The Club HNB, Colombo.

Written by Kavinu Cooray

17th May, 2024 Visual Art | Paintings