Interview with Prasad Hettiarachi

Interview with Prasad Hettiarachi



I had the pleasure of meeting Prasad Hettiarachi when he exhibited at The Barefoot Gallery in 2015. He was introduced to me by a good friend and a British Artist who has  exhibited with us since 1995: Alex Stewart. Alex saw Prasad’s work at the Theerta Gallery in Borella and invited Prasad to come and see his work that was on show at Barefoot. Prasad came and was suitably impressed and inspired. Alex and Prasad have a lot in common. Both draw in miniature, Both use symbols to represent concepts and ideas, Alex’s are more in the mythological realm and Prasad’s symbols are grounded in his environment.

 I caught up with Prasad at the Barefoot Gallery to speak to him about his 2nd exhibition titled EXCLUSION, his ideals, and life in general. We spoke in the studio upstairs surrounded by beautiful pieces of art—Prasad’s exhibition was on view downstairs at the Gallery below. It was a blustery day, the monsoon was in full swing as were the kohas, their screeches loud and familiar, so unlike Prasad whose voice is gentle and dignified. Prasad struck me as highly intelligent, soft-spoken and very kind.

 What prompted you to become an artist?  I come from a background of art lovers. My father, H. A. Nandesena, worked as a painter, a wood polisher, and he liked to make things. He taught me how to paint at a young age—same age as my children are now. He is very clever person. He won the national lantern festival, came 1st in 2005 & 2006. I started seriously painting in Grade 6 – I’d see my father sketching drawings and other things—I thought and hoped to be a visual artist. I worked at painting. My other mentor was my teacher at school. He is a Buddhist Monk and his name is Pallathathara Thero- These were the two major influences in my early life.  I passed my O-level- and A-level exams with a distinction in Art. I had the grades to get into The Visual and performing Arts but missed the university deadline.

How do you work? I work in Mirissa temple as a conservationist at the SAMUDRAGIRI VIHARAYA  of temple. . I wake up in the early morning and catch the bus to Mirissa, which takes two hours. In the evenings when I comes home i spend time with my family helping the kids with their studies, talking to my wife; After which, I start painting, I work on paper and canvas working simultaneously on my paintings going back and forth on each one.  I don’t have a studio i pains everywhere; my easel is whatever is handy and near. His children’s desk, the floor, a table.  His favourite piece of art is one he worked on Last May Day, I worked on a set design with fellow artists and we painted a very large dragon holding a strong hand. (people power) The drawing is in the Fort. Today, my main job is working as a free-lance artist for the Central Cultural Fund.

Tell me how you came to call this exhibition Exclusion? Name was proposed by my friend and fellow artist, Laksiri. Exclusion is derived from Latin meaning to SHUT OUT. Every day I see my society and the lives of the people are changing very quickly without their choosing. Prasad would like the Government to give the people, freedom to think and act, freedom to live the way they want to, to be confident and to be able to trust the Government, to be secure. The gap is too big between rich and poor; and our taxes and funds are going into politicians’ pockets. Working people have problems, every day Government is not addressing their issues. Mega-projects are coming and moving their properties. However, he does not say that their lives are all about their problems.  Prasad shows in his painting that the ordinary persons’ views can also be funny and colourful. They have problems, like everyone–but they are choosing answers, sometimes wrong, sometimes right, but their lives are moving forwards.

What and who inspires you? What inspired this exhibition and why? He is stimulated by Party Politics, articles about art and politics in books, magazines and the internet, and his talks with friends, He enjoys discussing questions on politics and problems – He compares the daily news with party politics. This is what inspires him. HOWEVER, Prasad is an artist, as an artist he appreciates beauty, he paints about these problems with beauty— He thinks the LSSP party is right- he connects with their ideals., he has empathy for humanity at large. His favorite artist is Roy Lichtenstein he likes most of the modern artists such as Warhol and Jackson Pollack. 

Is there an artwork here that is your favourite?  And why? His favorite piece is: Knife sharpening machine is VI – it’s the one on the invite, and it’s the first painting in the knife sharpening series. He likes the color range. Emotions symbolically float up and disappear. This person has many hopes and emotions and they vanish every day –- the symbols represent the ordinary man and his hopes and dreams.


What is your favourite tool in your studio? A 000 triple brush. After painting a mural, the brush lost most of its hair and Prasad liked the result so he made his own brush called  it a triple 000 brush a brush with very little hair—Prasad’s brush. His brush makes it easier to paint intricately and in detail. Look at his paintings closely, there is much to see.

 What role do you as an artist have to play in society? I don’t want to be a star; my work is the star. 

 Prasad’s vision for the country: Equal. People should enjoy the same rights and privileges, usually accorded to the powerful and wealthy. This system does not support the ordinary man—system has to change—a revolution has to happen—Prasad is socialist with liberal leanings. The Government has no money. Our taxes should fund people’s projects. Thinking pattern needs to change. Working class people think that the Government has no idea of the common man’s problem. I don’t have an answer, all I know is that it’s a long journey. Every government has good policies for the people to start with, these need to be implemented with the help of intelligent men and women with good ideas and vision. Unfortunately, the ideals don’t follow through.

What’s integral to your work? The viewer integral to my work. Because they are the last judge of my work. They fill the white space with their character, their views, whilst being inspired by including Prasad’s ideas. He is hopeful.  Hope is important. We all must have hope.

What next?  Prasad would like to go an artist residency. I draw, make relief type sculpture and installations.  All filled with the miniature art. He is working on an exhibition which he hopes to hold next year at Barefoot
















druvinka (1) (1) 5*6

Druvinka 2017B

The Spiritual Aritist
Born in 1971, She was sent to art school as she was considered an introvert. She placed herself in a corner in order not to show her work;  never happy with her paintings, she used to hide her works of art.
She was inspired by Cora Abrahams and Nilanthi Weereratne-she was inspired by the conversations she had with them about art and books. (fascinating)
(Anjalendran was a big fan especially during her early years, He sold a lot of her paintings during that time.)
Cora Abraham, a famous art teacher in Colombo took her in as a special child, because her father was in the military.
Druvinka was introduced to many artists and their work by Ms. Abraham; she especially liked TURNER. His paintings of landscapes and the sea — she thought his paintings very mysterious– She was given blank canvases by Cora who said, “Be Free, Druvinka. Be Free! Express yourself!
Druvinka showed exceptional control and hand movement. It was then that her work went up on the walls and was exhibited in a small way.
She had her first solo exhibition at the Galadari Meridian. Arlene (her mum) and Druvinka organized an exhibition because she got a lot of praise and encouragement from her teachers, mentors, peers and other artists. She spent some time in Manchester, she submitted her portfolio of landscapes and was accepted (Manchester University, Portfolio of Landscapes. )
She graduated from Visaka, went to Manchester and then applied to Shanthineketan (got in and went) Why paint and make a living? “Because even if I have to be on the road I will try and make it” to the best of my ability. When she draws the character, the essence, of her inspired content comes through, other than a photographic message. I cannot get rid of the innermost feelings even now. Soul, essence and skill. Unlike early on, she is not at all inhibited by society or shyness.
Druvinka is spontaneous in her approach to her art, never scared of pressing oil colour onto canvas until something comes up. She paints in layers.
“Shanthineketen showed me the truth; India, Incredible India. One cannot bullshit your way through. Out went cushioning, the comfort of Colombo – In India she confronted reality – Felt small. A nobody. So you have to make it work. A survivor. Classmates left me alone, batch mates never exhibited, but Druvinka had experience. She kept to herself gathering information (an introvert) I didn’t know anything, spoke only when she knew the answers.
Druvinka is now secure in her art.—At Shanthineketen she met her husband, Bodh, a super artist and teacher, who controlled her totally. Bodh and a few others, made up a group called “We are International 1998.” They projected their work onto city walls and trees.
You are a great artist, I think you should work” You are a working artist, Bodh criticized her work, made her work, to make it better. She exhibited at the Lionel Wendt in 1995 and 1996. Druvinka is competent in pottery, sculpture, printmaking, textile design, painting, history of art, western, far eastern, and indian.
Druvinka chose to exhibit at Gallery 706 in 1996 where she showed her Embryo series.
This was soon followed by:
· Refugee series
· Karmic forces,
· Rising
· Lingam
· Beneath beyond
For Druvinka the process is crucial. She paints on raw canvas, bamboo paper, and rice paper. She paints  gods, goddesses, the universe, the afterlife. These ideas, these expansive themes are weighty to comprehend. To try and fit them in it is essential that she uses large canvases. The largest Barefoot has exhibited are paintings 15ft * 6ft. in size. Not for the faint-hearted.
Today, she paints on 1*1 canvases and paper but only for practical reasons. Even though the work is small, the concepts remain large.
1) Magic
2) Tantric
Without the darkness there is no light, dark and light work together — however, dark –eventually light comes out. However much you play with dark, the dark is only used for light to shine. Light is powerful it has to come. Think Leonard Cohen: There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
I have learnt through my Sadana to keep nothing inside, only the moment of being, so it is to becoming childlike, wisdom with no knowledge, It’s not possible to connect with the spirit world without being empty.
I no longer paint but only my body is used as an instrument for channeling from above, to the canvas, so whatever appears is original and a message. Pathal means the underworld… one of the three worlds
Sadana is sacrificing certain things in life and sitting in meditation till you achieve something that you were searching for. Tantra is `connected to dark and light and represents the cycle of life, which is called: Samsara.
Whatever Druvinka indulges in comes out in her paintings.
The 5 elements: water, earth, sky, fire and air, this is the magic and god. That’s what we are made of in illusionary world. The universal truth is Satyam, Shivom, and Sundaram.
Satyam means truth, Shivom is never dying soul, and Sundaram is the beauty of it all.
The spiritual and happy artist; DRUVINKA.
Nazreen Sansoni as told to by Druvinka.
December 2017