Why It’s Important To View Senaka Senanayake’s Art On Rainforest Conservation

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Senaka Senanayake’s art comes with a message of conservation and is especially important in today’s world of vanishing rain forests and ecological destruction. We take a look at his artistic journey.

Sixty-five year old Sri Lankan artist Senaka Senanayake’s work comes with an important message, especially relevant in today’s times: conservation of rain forests. An internationally acclaimed artist, his latest exhibition Homage to Rain forests is on display at Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore until August 27th. As you walk into Sumukha, you enter into the virtual world of rain forests, far away from the hustle bustle of modern cities. The canvases come alive when light peeking through the thick canopy of trees seems to play hide and seek, and trumpeting elephants, chirpy macaws, hovering humming birds and fluttering butterflies greet you through the vibrant flora and fauna of the forests. One cannot help but get transported to the world of tranquillity and hear the myriad sounds of nature, while witnessing nature in all its glorious colours. For Senanayake’s works are a true representation of nature in its vibrancy and colours, even though the flora and fauna may have been juxtaposed from different parts of the forests, to create balance and harmony on the canvas.

Senaka Senanayake

Untitled work; Oil on Canvas

Hailing from Sri Lanka’s first family, Senanayake is the grandnephew of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister. He chose to take the road less travelled and studied at Yale University to be an artist from 1968-1972. “My parents wanted me to study medicine and pursue art as a hobby. While studying to gain entry into a medical school, I held a solo exhibition in Colombo to raise money for my school swimming pool fund. As chance would have it, a representative from the Smithsonian Institute visited the show. He loved my work of art and advised me to pursue art instead of medicine as he believed God had bestowed me with talent in art. On his suggestion, I applied to Yale and Princeton and got admission to both Universities with full scholarship. I opted for Yale as it had a better art school”, says Senanayake. Studying at Yale opened new vistas for the young artist, who until now had been self-taught. He dabbled with art and architecture, even went to Cambridge University, England to get a professional degree in Architecture but his heart lay with art. “I told my parents I wanted to be an artist and not an architect. Very reluctantly they agreed, saying that only the fool in the family paints. I had a very successful year and that encouraged me to continue my art career.”

Senaka Senanayake

Untitled; Oil on Canvas

There has been no looking back for the artist ever since. Till date, Senanayake has held more than 100 solo shows, and numerous group shows in countries across Europe, China, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Czechoslovakia, Korea and Egypt to name a few.

The turning point in Senanayake’s artistic career came 15 years ago, when on an environmentalist cousin’s insistence, he took a trip to Sri Lanka’s rain forests. “On my first visit to the rainforest, the image that inspired me most was the beautiful light in the forest. You find tall trees with heavy canopies and between them shafts of sunlight coming through”. What also struck him was the fast pace at which these beautiful forests were disappearing and he decided to join the crusade of conservation. “I believe each one of us has a God given skill and mine is using the paint brush. I think I should use my skill in the most effective way that I am competent to do.”

Senaka Senanayake

Untitled; Oil on Canvas

Senanayake has been painting rain forests since then. His latest exhibition holds his works of this year. For his next series, Senanayake is working on a series on the destruction of Coral reefs. However, there is not a shade of grey in these paintings even though the cause is a somber one, as Senanayake believes that negativity will not inspire anyone. Inspired by a talk by Sri Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, about how happiness is always sandwiched between sadness and about the power of positivity, Senanayake hopes the positive and lively images of the forests would attract the attention of the younger generation to the cause. The positivity is also reflected in the transparent and faint circular orbs drawn atop the foliage, depicting the artist’s Buddhist beliefs and symbolising the eternal cycle of life and death.

Go visit the exhibition and take a break from the humdrum of our daily lives to witness sublime scenes from forests tucked away on a neighbouring island. The show is on till August 27, 2016.

Venue: Gallery Sumukha
Address: 24, 10, BTS Bus Depot Road, Vinayaka Nagar, KSRTC Colony, Wilson Garden, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560027
Phone: 080 2229 2230

About Author

Nidhi Chawla

Nidhi Chawla is the co-founder of Silver Talkies. She loves spending time with her daughter and enjoys reading, traveling and sketching.