Music matters like nothing else
This painting by Harry Peiris is for view and sale at the Barefoot Gallery. I have listed the wikipedia reference for those of you who want to now more about him.
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
Deep in my heart a wedge does lie
I’m willing to throw a dart to hit it clean and fair
Instead I breathe, breathe deeply and sigh
The cause of the wedge is mine—let’s try.
Was it the afternoon I drove back from Galle?
Hail! Thunder and Lightning quite a scare
Voice on the radio warning us to go with care.
the highway is dangerous to drive anywhere.
Wait! is the wedge my children? My poor mother, too.
My husband, Dom, my in laws? ‘How do you do?’
A lost love, another life, what could have been?
it’s bittersweet now, all that I have seen…
The wedge comes and goes. Today it sticks, like a thorn to a rose.
Tears pour down my face, I am thankful for god’s grace.
To analyze the pain, sitting in the car in the rain
One goes back in time, breathes, the mind arace.
To gratitude: of course, I’m grateful! So what if I’m Fey?
The wedge is lodged, embedded deep. I long for the comfort of sleep
Not yet, not there, the exit is quite far. Stay awake!
Don’t fall asleep. Keep breathing the wedge out, however deep.
At last the exit, I take the turn, drive to the booth to stop.
Pay my toll and on my way, keep breathing the hardness away
And suddenly, I am aware, that this feeling of a wedge
has disappeared, is not there? was it the stress of the drive?
Maybe. Could be, should be, yes! Driving is difficult
When one can barely see, the car in front, the road, a tree.
The rain is ceasing, the breathing is easy
At last: Home. the dog runs to greet me.
Unpack my bag get on the mat
Do a few yoga poses, here comes the cat!
5 kittens to feed all are shivering.
My body feels better, no more dithering
I draw a bath then into bed, take meds, then cover.
Dream of mayhem and accidents oh what a shower!
I suddenly wake up to another day. Stretch and yawn.
The wedge has gone, the sun shines bright. Oh how I love, love, love the light.
N.S. APRIL 15, 2018
That night in Nuwara Eliya
When Dom and I stumbled
Into the Grand, we had just re-met
And every moment was precious.
It took us ten minutes to find the bar
It was cold for Nuwara eliya and we
Needed a drink, desperately.
A single malt for Dom and a Port
For me. This was in 1993,
I turned towards the barman to place our order
And stopped, shocked. Next to us was the most
Extraordinary man I had ever seen, he was approx.
7ft tall. His ears were pointy, nearly as large as his head
A beard that tapered to a degree
His sideburns, thick, wide, designed
Angled to his mouth
A sweet smile. It was disconcerting.
Basically, your friendly neighborhood werewolf.
He bought us a round of drinks and
Seemed very glad to meet us.
We drank with him up to a point.
Said our goodbyes
And staggered outside into a sea
Of mist. It must have been midnight
the moon was full.
Shining bright with light
To show us the way
To the car-
Drove the windy
Road back to the club.
Quietly distressed by the
Meeting of the man
Who looked like a wolf.
Short days in Michigan
When the leaves turn to
colours of the earth.
The old man mowing his lawn
Wearing his slate cashmere v-neck with
holes under the arms, has never bothered
to get the thing darned.
Billy used the season to shoot
He would walk out into the woods with his Colt 45
Looked for Rabbit, Deer, if lucky, a Bear.
He wore a brown, round, wool neck sweater
that kept him warm.
It also camouflaged him really well.
No-one mentioned the time he was down by
The creek – – a body floated up, face down–
bloated and gross from being in the river for over
The sheriff hushed It up,
Billy was his son, you see.
The Sheriff wore a red lambswool sweater
to suggest authority, or perhaps, danger? and to keep visible.
He was beautiful to look at – A Cary Grant—with manners.
How us County people respected him.
The sole reason we never pursued the body story.
His word was Final.
Me, Autumn in Michigan, meant road trips—a six pack of
Molson in the car; Ruben sandwiches and my best girlfriend.
We’d sing to Joni Mitchell and Carol King—perfect tunes for a fall sunset
that seemed to last forever. At night, Deborah Harry
blasted from the CD deck the stars shining brightly.
We did not need the moon or headlights to show us the way.
My girlfriend wore her purple sweater, made of Angora.
It smelled of Opium. I wore a cashmere jersey
in lime green.
We drove for days hitting the west coast
Got down at Full Moon Beach.
Threw our sweaters off,
and with it, our angst spinning emotions
Jumped nude into the Pacific Ocean
The water was cold.
We could very well had been swimming in
It was worth it.
For the Road Trip.
2261 miles of it.
NS May 7th 2017.