Pradeep Thalawatta graduated with a BFA in Painting from the Beaconhouse National University in Pakistan in 2007, and has been hailed as a noteworthy artist in Sri Lanka, creating pieces since the early 2000s. Thalawatta has exhibited his work locally and internationally, and has gradually developed a unique aesthetic of his own. He currently alternates between Jaffna and Colombo, and works as a Lecturer in Art and Design at University of Jaffna.
Thalawatta’s early work deal with highly metropolitan situations such as industrialization, commercialization and mass production making direct commentary on the urban landscape of Sri Lanka, which was been changing at a rapid pace since the early 2000s. Thalawatta draws from his personal experience as a citizen exposed to urbanization and its effects in these works. His latter works explore related phenomena, but under the more generic theme of changing landscapes. Referring to his solo exhibition A Different Road (2012), Annoushka Hempel notes: “the idea of changing landscapes has very much been carried through into this exciting new body of work… which as insinuated, features the road as that which runs through and features in each work. Road, sea and sky. Sky, new road and old road. Road that erases that which once was. Road that breaks up history. The Game of the Road. The Road that leads to….? are all addressed.” The metaphor of the ‘road’ is interesting: it signifies the ideas of movement and travel that were previously restrained during the war, but later unified after the end of the ethnic conflict with the removal of border controls between the north and the south. Thalawatta can therefore be identified as an artist who has dared to move beyond the subject of the civil war, in order to focus on the aftermath, and the futuristic socio-political aspects of the war set against the contexts of heightening globalization and technology.
Thalawatta plays with the corporeal and the material to create his pieces, which range from the disciplines of painting to installation art to graphics. He talks about his work as follows: “my artwork bring attention to body, memory and displacement looking at the complex, convoluted politics of the everyday.” He is interested in exploring the exotic nature of materials and objects derived from the everyday urban atmosphere, playing with the unique textures and colours they engender.
His work “Diyatha Uyana” (2014) is a self-portrait where he appears to be drowning in a swimming pool holding a framed photograph of a highly urbanized city with high-rise buildings. This is an expression of remembrance of the times gone by, and a reflection on the decisions of the then government to develop the city of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte as an urban area. It also focuses on the theme of amnesia about the war: while the uneasy facial expressions on the drowning Thalawatta are disorienting, and reminiscent of the suffering people underwent during the war, the photograph of the city forces the viewer to contemplate on how rapidly the country has forgotten the atrocities of the war. The motif of his own image helps him to successfully express his own opinions and political standpoints, while appealing to the emotions of his audience as well.
Another instance where he used urban material in a novel way is his video installation “Line in the City” (2014) in which he walks around the city of Lahore, Pakistan, passing flyovers, high rise buildings, apartment complexes and the constant traffic, dressed simply in a linen shirt and denim jeans. It is then revealed to the viewer that he is in fact marking his path or ‘line’ with a roll of white toilet paper. Jyoti Dhar, reflecting on this piece, suggests that for Thalawatta, “weaving a line through the city was a way of underscoring and observing social behaviour, as well as charting an alternative and accidental map of a metropolitan landscape.” Combined with the reactions of the persons on his path who witness the act first-hand and the simple motif of the roll of toilet paper, “Line in the City” signifies the manner in which the urban has taken over humans’ lives, and how deeply immersed we are in the structure and landscape of a city.
|Name of Exhibition||Year||Place|
|Urban and the Individual||2004||Finomenal Space Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Contemporary Sri Lankan Art: Ten Artists||2005||Millesgarden Museum, Lidingo, Sweden|
|“Day 2 Day” Theertha Exhibition Season||2008||Theertha Red Dot Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Red Dot Design Show||2009||Theertha Red Dot Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Art Works on Paper||2009||National Art Gallery, Male, Maldives|
|Theertha International Artists’ Residency Exhibition||2010||Theertha Red Dot Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Theertha@1 Shanthi Road Gallery||2010||Bangalore, India|
|Red and White||2011||Department of Fine Art, University of Jaffna, Jaffna, Sri Lanka|
|A Different Road||2012||Hempel Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Becoming: Colombo Art Biennale||2012||JDA Perera Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|Mobile Library: Open Edit||2013||Park Street, Mews, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial||2014||Fukuoka, Japan|
|Serendipity Revealed||2014||Brunei Gallery, London, UK|
|South by Southeast||2015||Osage Gallery, Hong Kong|
|Sovereign Asian Art Prize||2015||Christie’s, Hong Kong|
|COLOMBOSCOPE: Sea Change||2019||Colombo, Sri Lanka|
Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in
|2007||Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan||BFA in Painting|
|2004||National Design Centre, Sri Lanka||Diploma in Graphic Design|
|2003||Vibhavi Academy of Fine Art, Colombo, Sri Lanka||Studio Course|