11th April 2012
Paradise Lost and found at Leeds Metropolitan
Artistic ideals of Sri Lanka’s tropical beauty and memories marking the horrors of the island’s civil war collide in a new exhibition opening at Leeds Metropolitan University on Friday April 13.
The stunning 12 piece art show - Paradise Lost, is open to the public at the University’s Broadcasting Place until April 26 and is the handiwork of PhD student Priyantha Udagedara.
The Sri Lankan born 37-year-old, whose childhood was blighted by his country’s civil unrest, was a professional artist before he came to the UK in 2006 to study a Masters in painting at Leeds Metropolitan.
“There are two versions of Sri Lanka – the one where people see it as the beautiful place that it is, and the Sri Lanka that was war torn where the paradise was lost,” said Priyantha. “This is what my paintings represent.”
The collection is the second series of paintings to be exhibited under the theme of Paradise Lost, the first of which was displayed in the Paradise Road Galleries in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2010.
“It was supposed to be an 18 piece exhibition,” comments Priyantha. “But in the end it included 17 paintings – the gallery didn’t exhibit the eighteenth piece. Because of what my work represents, it is considered as controversial in Sri Lanka.”
He added that some of the paintings in the new series of Paradise Lost focus on an architectural style.
“I have included actual photos of Sri Lankan buildings that were destroyed during the war in the collages of my paintings,” said Priyantha. “I also included pieces of bandages sourced from a hospital in Sri Lanka.”
Priyantha hopes to complete his PhD, entitled Rediscovering Paradise – painting, representing and revision of identities, at Leeds Metropolitan later this year. He acknowledged that at first glance the beauty within the exhibition paintings in the form of flowers and butterflies stand out to the viewer above the horror. The latter is symbolised in the form of discreet images of barbed wire and body parts.
“My art is a new form of landscape, one which exemplifies terror and beauty in one place,” he said. “The viewer takes in a false sense of beauty before the revelation of the displaced sense of agonising beauty.”
Priyantha has exhibited his work in both the UK and Sri Lanka, as well as in numerous international venues including The Cross Art Project in Sydney and the Lalith Kala Academy Gallery New Delhi. Following the exhibition at Leeds Metropolitan University, the Paradise Lost series will also be exhibited in London gallery.