Nalini Jayasuriya began her vocation as an artist having never had any formal education in visual art. She was an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka, and was given an opportunity to advance in the art industry when she received an unsolicited grant facilitated by the British Council to study English in the UK. During her time in London, she also studied art, focusing on stained glass technique and working with enamel on metal. She went on to teach art history and the history of music at the prestigious Yale Divinity School associated with the Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Jayasuriya created art alongside her career as an academic, and her work has been exhibited in many countries including Manila, London, Bangkok, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo, Jerusalem and New York. She also had considerable talent in music with several compositions of her own, as well as literature, having written a number of poems and books that were published.
Jayasuriya’s work have a spirituality of its own: coming from a Christian family living in a predominantly Sinhala Buddhist background, she attempted to find a middle ground between the various religions in the country. Jayasuriya’s pieces therefore fuse her understanding of the diverse cultures, ethnicities and religions in her home country with an expression of art born from an Asian, Christian background with respect for all types of religious faith. Referring to her work, her former colleague John Cook claims, “her works lead us into a spiritual plane where the story is maintained, and the reference lingers as imagery suggestive of meaning deeply rooted in, and beyond the stories. These paintings also open us up aesthetically to contemplation. Or, to put it another way, there is a mystical dimension that is aesthetically and formally achieved, while the subject matter keeps its integrity, its recognisability.” Her art forces aesthetic contemplation accompanied by a venturing towards peace and reconciliation despite differences. She saw herself as a historian, depicting a new history of peace and goodwill with vibrant colour, human silhouettes, abstract shapes and circular compositions that stir up meditative and contemplative responses in the audience. Her chosen medium has often been mixed media on cloth or canvas allowing flexibility and ease of expression.