Stanley Kirinde is a Sri Lankan painter who was born as Sarathchandra Madduma Bandara Wickremasinghe Kirinde in Deegala, Kandy in 1930. He received his primary and secondary education from Trinity College, Kandy and went on to study History at the University of Ceylon in 1950. Kirinde showed an interest in art from his early years as he enjoyed painting and sketching at art lessons given at school. Lakshman Kadirgamar, a friend and classmate, remembered him as a child prodigy: “we stood around him spellbound as he sketched, drew and painted in watercolors and oil, effortlessly, day after day, with an astonishing clarity and command of style for one so young. As he won every class prize in art and at a young age competed successfully in national competitions, he became to us a heroic figure able to do what none of the others could aspire to achieve.” This childhood hobby eventually became a lifelong passion that gave Kirinde legitimacy and recognition internationally as a representative of the growing Sri Lankan visual art context.
While working as an administrative officer for the government, he exhibited his works in Sri Lanka, as well as in Japan, USA, UK, Bangladesh, Brazil and Singapore. His works are a part of many private collections, including the President’s House in Colombo and Kandy, as well as the collection of the Prince of Wales. In 2000, Kirinde was commissioned to do a portrait of HE the President of India, Sri K.R. Narayan. In 2005, Kirinde received the national honour of “Deshabandu” from the President of Sri Lanka. He died peacefully at his residence in Battaramulla in 2009.
Kirinde leaves an invaluable legacy of paintings for younger generations to engage with. His early works are a reflection of the simplicity and beauty of the rural and village lifestyle he was brought up in. “Village Scene” (1952) is an oil on canvas that depicts a group of men, women and children engaging in different activities of rural life: a man driving a bullock cart, a boy plucking coconuts from a tree and several women and children gathering firewood for the week. The image of the traditional Sri Lankan woman in her redde and hatte (cloth and jacket) or the pleated Kandyan sari is iconic and poignant, as it recreates an essence, as well as nostalgia, associated with that of the Sri Lankan pastoral. The lush vegetation and greenery surrounding these characters are the epitome of the Kandyan landscape. The painting is one of many in which it is evident that Kirinde drew inspiration from the style of murals that dominated the Kandyan Era of rule in Ceylon; these murals would narrate a story of Buddhist origin with interesting characters highlighted with vivid, bright colours (often red, yellow and white) spreading alongside decorative patterns of different shapes.
Art writer and critic SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda compares these early works of Kirinde to the works of Paul Gauguin, who often painted his memories of Tahiti, suggesting that the focus on “human activity amidst uncorrupted natural surroundings” manifests a common need to capture “a tropical paradise enriched by gorgeous colour.” “Bathers” (1952) is another painting that was created during his university years, which carries influences of both local and western art.
During his university years Kirinde took an interest in the human figure, inspired by Renaissance painters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He developed several sketches, improving his attention to detail with careful manipulation of the pencil. His “Study of a Man’s Back” (1945) is one such early rendition, which follows Michelangelo’s style of red chalk studies, focusing on the bones and muscles of the back of a man, rather than his front appearance. He was also a well-known portrait artist, having experimented with self-portrait and portraits of members of his family for decades. His depictions of his wife Iranganie Kirinde are still recognized to be some of his finest. “Girl Sewing” (1970) portrays his wife as he first saw her, exuding freshness and an uncorrupt elegance, depicted mainly by the use of pastel colours such as pink, green, turquoise and creamy white. “Dressing of the Bride” (1978) is another portrait he did of his wife getting ready for their wedding, where there is an undeniable emphasis on her features and the fineness of the Kandyan bridal attire with a great amount of detail.
The 43 Group, who pioneered Sri Lankan modernist art, introduced Kirinde to the world of modern art as a young boy of thirteen. He exhibited several paintings at their exhibitions and learned about the art industry under the guidance of Harry Pieris, George Keyt and Justin Daraniyagala. Inspired by Daraniyagala’s expressionistic creations, Kirinde painted “Conversation Piece” (1964), containing a portrait of a person with distorted features in a dark background, complemented by colours such as dark brown and yellow. He also experimented with Keyt’s style of Cubism, using geometrical shapes to build the silhouettes of the characters in paintings such as “Woman Draping her Sari” (1967). Combining these different styles Kirinde evolved his own distinctive style, which he explored and perfected through his depiction of landscapes, bodies and practices he intended as expressions of his ‘Sri Lanka’.
During his latter years, Kirinde drew ideas from Mughal paintings, approaching art as an attractive but simple form with messages and meanings that could be easily conveyed to a wider audience. Adopting this style, Kirinde began storytelling through art that explored literary, poetic and religious themes. The illustrations he did for the 8th edition of Marie Musaeus Higgins’ Stories from the History of Ceylon (1909, reprinted in 1999) are an example of this unique style. He further explored storytelling when he started drawing Buddhist Jataka Stories using the medium of miniature art. In the 1980s until the late 2000s, as a response to the ethnic conflict that devastated the country, Kirinde created work that represented the Buddhist philosophy of tolerance and forgiveness.
|Name of Exhibition||Year||Place|
|9th Exhibition of the 43 Group||1955||National Art Gallery, Sri Lanka.|
|10th Exhibition of the 43 Group||1955||National Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1958||University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1959||Senate Room, University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|14th Exhibition of the 43 Group||1964||Lionel Wendt Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|Joint exhibition with Dr. Siri Gunasinghe and Kulanatha Senadheera||1967||-|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1967||Lionel Wendt Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1969||Alliance Francaise de Kandy, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1970||University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1970||Samudra Gallery, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|“Art of Sri Lanka” organized by the Smithsonian Institution (Traveling exhibition)||1979||USA|
|Festival of Contemporary Asian Art||1980||Fukuoka, Japan.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1980||Alliance Francaise de Kandy, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Asian Art Show||1981||Bangladesh|
|“Contemporary Painting in Sri Lanka”||1981||Commonwealth Institute, London, UK.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1983||Sapumal Foundation, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1985||Alliance Francaise de Kandy, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1987||The British Council, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1990||Alliance Francaise de Kandy, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1996||The British Council, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|Exhibition of Paintings||1998||University Arts Council, Arts Faculty Seminar Room, University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka.|
|“Reflections on Sigiriya”||1998||Mountcastle Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|“A Classical Vision”||1999||Gallery 706, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|“Tradition and Modernity”||2000||Indian Cultural Centre, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
|“Celebrating National Day”||2003||Sri Lanka Institute of International Relations, Colombo, Sri Lanka.|
Other Publicaitons the Artist has been mentioned in
|1950||University of Ceylon, Sri Lanka.||BA (Hons) in History|