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Anil Nishantha Amarapura has sacrificed a lot to pursue his passion which is sculpting. In recent years he has undertaken some of the biggest commercial artwork in Sri Lanka assigned to a single artist. From sculpting the fate of the monks who visited Aranthalawa, designing projects like Ape Gama, Safari Park, the backstage of CHOGM and the sculptures at Shangril-La Hotel, Anil has displayed his skills in art and most importantly his love to perform a task to perfection.

Before he made money out of sculpting, he struggled to make the necessary change in life. Anil found employment in newspapers and worked as a layout artist, eventually reaching the top as chief layout artist. “That’s the time I realized that you will never find yourself and what you really want to be in life, because newspaper jobs have the ability to make the individual forget about himself and even die for the newspaper. Newspaper work is a fantasy you get trapped in,” recalled Anil in an interview with Nation.

He is a self-taught artist and more than lamenting about the education he didn’t receive, he cherishes what he learnt from expatriate artist and designers when working with them. “As for me there is no syllabus when it comes to art because I see it as a global thing,” is how he began a conversation with this scribe in a wayside pub in Kiribathgoda.

Being very polite as he always is, he requested a steward who served him to bring down the blinds in a window because the sunlight was bothering him. When the steward responded in the negative I offered to switch places. This scribe didn’t feel the sun coming in his face because the conversation that took place afterwards was so intriguing.

He told me that it’s ok for an artist to drink, but he said that he should drink alone. “It’s only then that you can stop drinking. If you drink with friends you will never be able to do that,” he said. According to him it is essential that a man learns to still the mind. “Drink, sex and meditation are three things that still the mind. If you can do that with meditation, so much the better because that will be something permanent,” Anil said as he sipped his beer and lit a cigarette.

This scribe could see glimpses of his face, a rugged one, as cigarette smoke engulfed the area we were seated in. I asked him what influenced him and whether he went to see exhibitions of other artists. “My mindset is maintained like a girl safeguards her virginity. I don’t wish to be influenced by anything. If I go to see these exhibitions I can follow their work and stop there or go beyond them. I don’t want to do either,” he said.

He acknowledged the fact that he was born with all the skills to create amazing things using his hands. The artist said he gave the internet a lofty position as a tool that a person can educate oneself with. The other striking aspect in his life is making constant changes in his life. His next dream is to become a farmer.

Asked whether he would do an exhibition, he answered in the affirmative. “A person has to reach his 40th birthday. It is then only that you know yourself enough to do a proper exhibition. In this rat race in life, how can one expect to find oneself when you don’t have time for yourself,” said the 44-year-old artist who lives in Kadawatha with his wife and son.

Anil said that he has done enough commercial art and has been rewarded handsomely for his efforts. He said that it is now the time to engage in art work to his liking. “An artist must make his creations, so that people blend with them,” he added.

Anil works with a team now and hires structural engineers when undertaking projects to ensure the structures he creates pass the safety test. Looking back at his career he had this to say, “Through all my art work I have looked for something spiritual. That spiritual realization, when it comes, will be something very beautiful,” he concluded.
(Pics courtesy: Anil Nishantha Amarapura)

Shangril-La (2) Shangril-La (4) Shangril-La (3)