Pala Pothupitiye is an artist that emerged with a unique sensibility for creativity as a member of the generation of the 90s Art Trend. Having graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Kelaniya in 2002, Pothupitiye has since displayed his art in locally and internationally acclaimed platforms based in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. In 2010, he was awarded the Sovereign Art Asian Prize, signalling his artistry as unique and politically charged. Pothupitiye’s chosen mediums of art and expression are mainly sculpture, installation art and painting. He is currently based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and is a member of the Theertha Artists’ Collective. Pothupitiye’s artistic style and vision are best described by him: “my artistic energy tends to explore a number of interpretations on identity within a discourse of ancestry, tradition, authenticity, urbanity, Geo-politics and dynamics of contemporary art practices.” His practice has evolved significantly over time since his entrance into the contemporary art scene of Sri Lanka.
Coming from a modest family background in Deniyaya, he utilizes Sri Lankan traditional craftsmanship to devise his works inherited from his father who was also a craftsman. Pothupitiye is recognized as an artist who aesthetically engages with the discourses surrounding ancestry, tradition, history, urbanity, authenticity, geo-politics and the dynamics of contemporary art practices when laid alongside traditional practices. In his early works included in Ancestral Dress and My ID he delves into the notion of caste and the discriminatory oppression imposed on people of lower caste, drawing inspiration from traditional motifs of costuming in the local thovil subculture, presenting them in his presence of modernized inheritance. Pothupitiye is aware of his as well as his country’s postcolonial identity and attempts commentary in these early works about resisting foreign influence while preserving nationality and cultural heritage. Referring to the manner in which the colonialists claimed territory and plundered the wealth and land of the locals, Pothupitiye said, “the rich legacy of our ancestors was wiped away because it was seen as backward and uncivilized. The colonizers wanted to replace it with their own systems of knowledge to make us feel deficient and inferior.” Using motifs of traditional craftsmanship to artistically reimagine his postcolonial existence, Pala slowly developed an artistic identity for himself, which he delved into soon after the end of the civil war.
The 2011 exhibition Katugaha and Mythical Landscapesheld at the Saskia Fernando Gallery was a commentary on the impact three decades of ethnic conflict had had on the citizens of the country. In this exhibition he used “geopolitical landscapes” delineating the manner in which ordinary citizens’ lives are prone to political considerations and interventions, often for the worse. In his engagement with the war and its aftermath from a macro perspective Pothupitiye merges the motif of the lion (the national symbol of Sri Lanka) with the motif of the tiger (associated with the rebellions sparked by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and creates a composite “liger” which continues to make appearances in his work, suggesting solidarity, reconciliation and co-existence.
His latest body of work, exhibited in Until This Moment comprises reimaginings and recreations of maps of Sri Lanka. The maps force deep contemplation about the manner in which the country is transforming in an age of increasing urbanization, migration and the laws governing the free flow of trade and persons. His maps also depict the unforgettable remnants of the Civil War in the country. In relation to both circumstances what Pothupitiye aims at depicting is the powers, local and global that prescribe what is necessary and correct without taking into account the actual consequences such prescriptions and decisions may have on citizens. Such powers also reinforce racist, sexist, communal, geographical and political exclusions, leading to further conflict and clashes between members of communities. Referring to Until This MomentDevPathak claims that “Pothupitiye’s maps cajole viewers to engage with the perpetuity of neo-colonial modernity, striding across mythology, history, and the present.” His works incorporating government maps and old colonial maps include developments of new cartographies that deconstruct and destroy the single sovereign territory of the colonials, replacing it with the neo-colonial idea of different histories and narratives supported by preservation of national heritage.
|Name of Exhibition||Year||Place|
|Made in IAS||2002||Star Fort, Matara, Sri Lanka|
|Art for Peace||2003||Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Ancestral Dress||2003||Finomenal Space, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Contemporary Sri Lankan Art||2004||GTZ Office, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Aham-Puram||2004||Public Library, Jaffna, Sri Lanka|
|Urban and the Individual||2004||Finomenal Space, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Goddesses Descending||2004||Gallery 71, Galle, Sri Lanka|
|Contemporary Sri Lankan Art: Ten Artists||2005||Millesgarden Museum Gallery, Sweden|
|3rd Fukuoka Triennial||2005||Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan|
|Parallel Realities: Asian Art Now||2006||Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, London, UK|
|Images of Globalization||2007||National Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Arte Curioso||2007||Theertha Red Dot Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Artful Resistance: Crisis and Creativity in Sri Lanka||2008||Museum of Ethnology, Vienna Austria|
|Imagining Peace, Colombo Art Biennale||2009||Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Sovereign Asian Art Prize Exhibition||2010||Singapore and Hong Kong|
|Two Artists Exhibition||2011||Hempel Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Contemporary Art from Sri Lanka 2011||2011||Asia House, London, UK|
|Becoming, Colombo Art Biennale||2012||Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Name of Book||Year of Publication||Author||Printer|
Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in
|Name of Documentary||Year of Production|
|2002||University of Kelaniya, Institute of Aesthetic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka||BFA in Sculpture|
|2006||With Craftsmen, Lahore, Pakistan||Study and training, traditional Pakistan sewing methods and techniques|
|2006||Craft-village, Lahore, Pakistan||Study and training, Pakistan traditional metal work methods and techniques|
|2006||Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan||Training program in Pakistan traditional jewellery|