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Koralegedara Pushpakumara

Sri Lankan Contemporary Artist
Born 1968, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Lives and works in Panipitiya, Sri Lanka

Koralegedara Pushpakumara’s artistic repertoire has evolved over time, both in terms of content and context. The role of a watchful observer and critique of the atrocities that happened in his home country, Sri Lanka, over the years changed his expressionist and individualistic style to a mature, politically motivated, and collective intensity. His art is influenced by the art that emerged in the nineties called 'Political Kitsch'.

Education

2010

Masters in Art History, Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

2003

Diploma in Archaeology, Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

1997

Bachelor in Fine Arts (Painting and Sculpture), Institute of Aesthetic Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Koralegedara Pushpakumara

His work style reflects his own personal transformation

Pushpakumara’s early works were expressionist, with the theme revolving around the private life and experiences of the self. His quick and sketchy strokes depicted the subject - the individualistic self - at the center of his work, exploring and coming to terms with the constraints set by the environment.

However, the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century not only witnessed the end of the 30-year terrorism but also a shift from the subject matter and medium employed by Pushpakumara. The expressionistic style gave way to a more mature, calculated and sharper technique of art.

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Man with the Pills, 2005, mixed media on canvas, 124cm x 86.5cm

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Bladewire (8), 2012, screen print, acrylic on canvas, 110cm x 67.5cm

The circumstantial milieu of Sri Lanka is embodied in his work

Pushpakumara’s Barbed Wire and Goodwill Hardware is not works of art that console viewer with their beauty. In fact, they take up characteristics similar to post-holocaust literature, gnawing at the viewer, which is representative of the inner turmoil the artist and the nation are going through as they come to terms with post-war reality.

Goodwill Hardware explores territories of conflict. The images of barbed wires wound together in a maze, framed in yellow and black stripes, evoke the imagery of police barricades - a common curfew sight. The Barbed Wire installation comments on the material manifestations of brutalization, segregation, alerting of danger and signifiers of temporality in a safe, acceptable and appreciated environment.

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Wall Plug (10), 2012, screen print, acrylic on canvas, 110cm x 67.5cm

Elements from the past and the present

The barbed wire and other hardware materials that the artist uses in his newer installations are inspired by the “visits to his relatives in Ampara in the 70s and the 80s” . Hence, Barbed Wire uses elements entangled across space and time, between the post-war exhibition halls of Hempel Galleries, Colombo and wartime realities of Ampara. The purpose of the concept remains the same – a reminder of division, restriction, denied access and violence.

For Pushpakumara, the paintings are “visual diary entries of everyday life, experiences and existence.”The incorporation of elements belonging to the “present tense” can be observed even in his earlier works - playfulness & spontaneity is most apt in describing the paintings centered on his 3-year old son.

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Barbedwire (I), 2012, screen print on canvas, 167.5cm x 122 cm

He experiments with multiple media to invoke a socio-political discussion

Even in the late 1990s when Pushpakumara started painting, his subject matter depicted political and social events, consequent of the rising wave of “freedom of expression” in that era. The socio-political nature of his work is one of the few strands that are consistent and coherent about the evolution of his artwork and style. For instance, in Goodwill Hardware, he uses barbed wire – a medium that is dangerous by itself – to encourage observers to contemplate about what we, as a collective, are really becoming. By carefully placing the wires inside harmless plastic tubes, Pushpakumara cleverly twists the plot so that the audience can interact with these supposedly dangerous contraptions only to discover that their fears aren’t justified.

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Goodwill Hardware 1 – VII, 2009, installation using clear hose, barb wire, nylon rod, white car paint, screws, 266 x 423 cm

His work contains Displacement of focus

Through his recent works, Pushpakumara has successfully decentered the observer’s focus from the subject to the context in which it is embedded. With his abandonment of fast blending brushstrokes, his obsessive positioning of the figure in the center of his work changed as well.

The lonely human image that was used as the central figure in most of his earlier works was calculatedly displaced in the aftermath of “ending terrorism”. The artist achieved this feat through a drastic departure from conventional painting and employing self-contained patterned surfaces as the medium of expression.

Koralegedara Pushpakumara, Bladewire (1), 2010, acrylic on canvas, 138cm x 120 cm