Artist Anup Vega is someone who can leave you thinking deep if you have a conversation with him. He is famous for his paintings which show depth with regards to the skill of a painter.
Vega told Nation he can’t escape the clutches of commercialism, because the paintings bring him money. “I don’t care much about payments. People try to take advantage of my ways when dealing with me and my paintings. I draw with love and respect. Joy overflows then,” says Vega who lives and works in Pannala.
One has to know that Vega rebelled against the traditional way of educating a child. He had some schooling. If you don’t know his background, then it is quite difficult to relate to his life experience.
If you look closely into his eyes, they radiate love. His face is calm as the water in a still pond. His long beard, which has many strands, reminds us that life brings us many challenges.
“I suffered a lot as a child because of the education system in Sri Lanka. It took me a long time to find my purpose in life,” reflects Vega as he sips a glass of lime juice.
We meet at a hangout joint in Wellawatte. And surprisingly he arrives before me and shows he works ahead of time, even though the life he has chosen to live allows him the liberty to eat, work and sleep when he wishes.
Who buys your art, I ask him. “There is nothing called child art or adult art. Humans are one kind. You can’t separate art from the human species. Anybody will react to a painting. It’s a natural thing to do,” says Vega who got the opportunity to participate at the 2007 SAARC Artists Camp in Rajastan, India.
I wonder whether he is testing me with this answer because he doesn’t reveal any big names as his clients. As I watch him from the corner of my eye, I catch him gazing at the horizon with his eyes lost in some far away location. It’s for an instant or so, but I notice that this man can live alone, jungle or city.
He went to school to please his parents. He went his own way in life somewhere down the line because the pull towards that direction was immensely appealing to him. “I am a natural animal. I have no attachment to anything. I am in my own bliss,” says the 49-year-old Vega.
The little literature available about this man says that he had his first art exhibition in 1997 and worked in the hotel industry before taking up painting. He is now a married man and the father of two children, son Basho (19) and daughter Isha (16). He met his wife Devika when he was a teenager. “We grew up in the same village and even played together. The hormonal influence was huge in both of us. So we got together. It was a natural thing. She has been my wife ever since,” he recalls.
This artist believes in the law of karma. He says it is a driving force in people’s lives. But people like Vega have been successful enough to alter their course from the path that leads to a mundane life. In the ‘world’ outside Pannala, life is hectic, but that is not very exciting for artists like Vega. The hectic life in the city might bore people like Vega to death. Though he lives in the village, he sometimes comes to Colombo and captivates the crowds that are into art and buy art. “Sometimes you can have the best of both these worlds,” laughs Vega.
He draws when he has energy or when he is in the mood. He sells some, because he has to make a living. Art is about nature. It comes naturally to people like him who are self-taught in this profession. Vega says that he is lucky to do art for a living despite not having a license to paint.
When this writer asks how someone will differentiate him if he were with a group of artists, he has this to say: “There is only one way of differentiating an artist from another. Either you are enlightened or not”.
Artists like Vega have preserved their innocence. He gives all the indication that remaining uneducated is the key to remaining unspoiled in this world. He doesn’t have a taste for what ordinary people crave for. “I am enjoying what is tasteless. I don’t entertain elusion,” he says as he stops to enjoy a fresh breeze that blows his way.