He is an archaeologist, artist and Chairman of Theertha International Arts Collective, Sri Lanka. Jagath Weerasinghe is a Senior Lecturer at the Post-Graduate Institute of Archeology of the University of Kelaniya. As an artist he encourages a socially critical and socially involving approach to art. Jagath Weerasinghe’s initial education in visual arts was acquired at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka where in 1981 he graduated with a BFA degree. He received his MFA at the American University, Washington D.C., USA.
“I’ve come to question my purpose of life or the purpose of my art because society keeps on changing and each time you think your art’s purpose is to intervene with the intention of changing society. While it is a lofty idea it doesn’t work that way because humans have certain human conditioning and what you see as a problem in general society cannot be dealt with immediate effect. So that’s exactly what I am dealing with, being human,” says Weerasinghe.
In this exhibition titled ‘With or Without Me/aning’ Jagath Weerasinghe combines painting, drawing and installation work as a philosophical expression of the transitory nature of being. In perhaps his least political works to date the series combines narratives of tradition, social norms and most of all change. The relevance of each work from their inherent meaning to their relation with one another presents a new dimension in Weerasinghe’s oeuvre.
“Why can’t art be approached from within itself? While society cannot think without its history of tradition and its internal and external politics; an individual is the same. That impossibility is the impossibility for the future. In these works I’m trying to take a pause for a minute and try to do something not totally controlled by my convictions and
traditions, to think of an art that can speak with eminence,” says Weerasinghe.
His painting Water, based on the story of those crossing the waters in Nandikadal at the very final stages of the war, contrasts with his drawings of deconstructed traditional form and elements thereby extracting and confronting both his own role as an archaeologist alongside society’s resistance to change in the history of Sri Lanka. Weerasinghe’s drawings expose his romantic, poetic side; often completed during his travels, they become delicate, erotic depictions created in transit and coincidentally representative of a new stage in his life. With or Without ME/aning opened in June 30 and will continue till July 22 at Saskia Fernando Gallery, 41, Horton Place, Colombo 07, open daily 10 am to 6 pm.