Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Noticing the unnoticed

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Graphic and Animation Unit head Shirani Nanayakkara talks about her creative skills and passion for drawing cartoons 
“Happiness expressed in a person’s face when they observe something gives me complete satisfaction of being an artist,” says Shirani Nanayakkara who is organizing her debut solo art exhibition Dhyana. Shirani is currently working as the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation’s Graphic and Animation Unit head. Tracing the path she took, she said that she joined SLRC in 1983, as a very first member of the Rupahavini Graphic unit leaving her job as an art director at a well-recognized advertising firm. “I took up the job at Rupavahini for half of the salary I was receiving at the advertising company. Television media was novel in the country and I succeeded at being one of the very first people to join,” Shirani recalled how proud she was to accept this challenge eagerly.
Shirani was born in Badullawala, a small beautiful village between Kithulagala and Yatiyanthota. She believes that the aesthetic feelings in her were nurtured by the soothing environment of her childhood. Starting her primary education from Hakbellawaka Primary school she moved into Tholangamu secondary school and then to Ruwanweli Central College for her Advanced Level. Although she showed more skills and talents in drawing, she was selected to study science subjects. However, she managed to attend the art classes of late artist Amaratunge Kahawatta to improve her skills.

She recalled the Graphics and Animation Unit 30 years ago when there were no computer facilities or sophisticated technological equipment. “Everything was hand-drawn, even the name lists presented after teledramas,” she recollected. She explained why a cartoon artist must master skills to express emotions in face of a moving sketch. “Person who has the talent to depict the intended emotions successfully in a moving two dimensional picture can be considered as a successful animator,” she emphasized. “Creativity is the most important element in cartoon then and now. It will be the most important thing in the future as well, that whatever the cartoonist does, the cartoon must be able to grab the attention of its audience,” she said. there are sophisticated tech equipment and advanced computer software to develop cartoon. Shirani grasped the technology fast that she adapted herself to the new trends. “Unlike today, there weren’t many opportunities to study the subject. I was motivated by the thought of creating better cartoon, therefore I studied on my own,” she said. In 2009 she was appreciated with a Rupavahini State Award for the best animation cartoon. The award winning cartoon was Lamayinta Nisi Thena Demu (Give children the right place).

She said that although local animation cartoons are in a developing state and a very high state compared to where it began, overall they lack creativity. She identified that this happens because the talented artists don’t show much enthusiasm to joining the cartoon field. “A graphic artist can’t create a good cartoon if the person is not a skillful artist,” she iterated. “If more artists look forward to put their efforts in making cartoon, future of the cartoon industry will not be bleak,” Shirani iterated.

She also mentioned that local cartoon animations, if well developed, will be more effective in sending a message to the child. “Local productions are more familiar to us that the characters are built upon our own society. It will be more effective in conveying a message of patriotism and building up a sense of appreciating local things in a child,” she pointed out.

Among her drawings, the majority consists of watercolor portraits. She said that this being the main method, she would experiment with any art medium or method in painting.  She enjoys sketching human figures the most, yet among her drawing are exceptional sceneries too.  Her eye gives attention to the isolated persons in crowds, the ones usually go unnoticed in a crowd. Shirani pays attention to their expressions and emotions that she sketches their emotions. All her paintings have a story to tell. “I see a story in everything I see. It’s just that I only have time to draw only a very few selected,” she said.

She mentioned her husband, Susantha Nanayakkara also with much affection. Susantha is a specialist in set designing. “I learned what fine art is after I got married to him. He was my teacher who he taught me to become a professional artist,” she said adding “If not for his help and motivation this art exhibition would not become a reality.”

Dhyana Art Exhibition will be declared open at 4 pm on Friday May 22 at Lionel Wendt Art Gallery. The exhibition will be held on May 23 and 24. “This is a very special event for me and this is the first time I am holding a solo exhibition. I have attempted to collect drawings from a long time. It didn’t work out because my drawings were never good enough for me. Only a carefully selected collection of my paintings will be exhibited at the event,” she said reiterating that personal satisfaction comes first in completing a drawing.
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