“Self portraits are unusually very beautiful almost all the time and I always wondered why this was. Is that really how we see ourselves or is it another’s perception of how we look? I wanted to look deep inside and really take a look at how I saw myself. I wanted to first make a connection with myself before making a connection with the society. That is why I think inner sounds and emotions are very important. That is the ideology and inspiration of this exhibition,” explained Manoranjana Herath.
His most recent and 18th solo exhibition was held at the Barefoot Gallery earlier this year. The exhibition included 20 paintings and 15 sculptures.
I find that it isn’t easy to talk things out. I know i’m not the only one when I say it’s difficult to open up and speak about how you feel and what you think wholeheartedly. This is the fault in us as humans. We keep so much to ourselves even without realizing it. Herath agrees and admits that he himself is much like that. “What we feel and think inside, is what I have tried to depict in my work. I feel that the more the world moves forward, the more we keep to ourselves. That constriction and limitation of emotions are depicted in terms of the dark colours I’ve used.”
Herath’s self portraits say so much with little. A hundred faces within a single face. Constrictions within constrictions. This is a day to day matter. He explained that he has the habit of adding other mediums to his paintings as well as actual photographs of himself from the age of 12 to make it seem more appealing. I find that this way, he reaches out a step further than usual and viewers would be able to connect deeper. He says the fact that his portraits are dark and grey and also because people are not honest and trustworthy any longer. There is a lot of dishonesty, distrust and falsehood in the world, and so there are deep shadows in his work to depict this.
“My sculptors are also self imaged makes. I’ve used different materials on them as well to send out different ideologies and messages. In one I’ve placed a fish bowl at the base. The water shows the reflection of the sculpture. I find that even when someone is hiding something, there is always a way of finding out what’s deep inside, even through their reflection. One other sculpture has arrows pointed towards the centre. The heart is visible. This can be interpreted in many different ways. I like to think that the arrows are struggles and hurdles in life; all aimed at breaking the heart. So in this way, all of what is exhibited tells a story; a story of the inner sounds within themselves and within ourselves.”
Herath began his work on this exhibition as a project. He admits that he often draws sketches of his sculptures so that he has a rough idea as to how he wants it to turn out. “I have a visual image of it in my mind and ocassionally it does come out the way I want it too. But sometimes, when I look at a finished sculpture I have different thoughts running in my head and then I change the look of it,” he said. To him, art is a form of expression. It was his creative inclination during his early adulthood years that steered him towards the art stream and led him to becoming a senior lecturer of the Department of Sculpture at the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo today.
“The art of sculptures isn’t for everyone. Each artist has a different passion within art itself. For me, I simply found myself steering down this path and for what reason I quite do not know. I love that I can use my hands in the uttermost manner to say how I feel within myself. It gives me a lot of freedom; the kind that sometimes I find difficult to put into words. I am able to make someone think, ponder, smile, be angry, hurt and laugh with what I can create. That to me is the greatest achievement as an artist.”
**As published in the Ceylon Today newspapers**