Madhura Sri Gamage a blossoming painter and an assemble artist graduated in art and sculpture with a special degree from the University of Visual and Performing Arts in 2015
His father Gunadasa Gamage, a retired art director in the Kelaniya Zonal education office and a graduate from the University of Visual and Performing Arts has been his first inspiration. He usually has conversations about arts and sculptures with his father and his mother is a retired music teacher while his sister who graduated from the University of Kelaniya with a degree in music is now working in a government office.
Madura received his primary education from Munidasa Kumarathunga Vidyalaya, Bomiriya, Kaduwela and secondary education from Bomiriya Central College. He sat for his ALs at Ananda College Colombo in 2007.
He paints using both oil and water colours and he moulds sculptures out of clay, fibre and cement. He perfected the art of assembling metal pieces into artistic sculptures on his own.
The ‘Bull’s Head’ by Pablo Picasso in 1942 which was done by assembling a bicycle seat and a handle is considered a turning point in sculpture art.
Though assemble art is an old concept in Europe it is still new in Sri Lanka. According to Madhura, assemble art is a basic shape constructed with the use of a minimal number of metal pieces. Yet Madhura is not inclined towards assemble art as it has become a trend.
“Most so-called assemble artists keep adding as many metal pieces to their work till they get a shape. It’s a matter of modelling iron, it’s not assemble art,” says Madhura.
Madhura is reluctant to refer to himself as an artist as he is still studying art. “The completion of a degree in art itself is not a qualification to be an artist. Neither does having conducted two or three art exhibitions”, admits Madhura. “Artists are coming out of the woodworks these days”. He regretted the fact that even those who participate in a music video are considered artists.
Madhura says that artists should emerge as society demands. “Becoming an artist is quite similar to becoming a doctor. There is a certain process to undergo. Each artist should have a history and his own identity. Each artist should be unique,” reiterates Madhura.
According to him the only way for an artist to be unique is to study art and it is only through studying art that one can develop one’s own style. “In the University of Visual and Performing Arts it’s compulsory for students to take up art theory for three years before they are allowed to follow their own style in the fourth year.
“People don’t bother to read a work of art anymore. For them it is just something eye-catching and colourful. People visit an art exhibition only with the intention of finding something to hang to cover a crack on their wall,” he regrets.
Madhura who is engaged in the private sector says it is impossible to market a work of art. “People want to purchase works of art for really low prices,” he says.
According to him though it takes a minimum of 60 minutes to do a watercolour painting, it had taken 16 years for him to study the theories of art. And another reason for a work of art to be expensive is the uniqueness of a hand painted work. “Even the same artist himself cannot produce the same brush stroke twice. Yet you can produce thousands of digital copies,” says Madhura.
According to Madhura there is a set of people who have highly paid jobs and engage in art as a hobby. They get cheap material and paint without any regard for art theory and sell their paintings for low prices.
“For them it is only an extra income. Due to them it is really difficult for an artist by profession to claim the right price for his work,” explains Madhura. “Art has become a commodity.”
He added that for the customer the work of art is only an architectural instrument, with no added value beyond that. According to him it is the artist who should decide the market.
“Today what happens is that the artist has to fulfill the need of the customer to feed his architectural needs. Yet an artist needs his own freedom to render a social political reading through his work of art as he wishes,” says Madhura.
For him a work of art should be able to entertain the onlooker, while providing social or political critique. “A watercolour painting should not be just a landscape painting. It should go beyond that. Yet one should have a thorough understanding of art to give a work of art a social or political reading,” elaborated Madhura.
Madhura claims that if an artist wants to break a certain tradition he should study its history first. “If not it is the artist himself who gets insulted in the process,” says Madhura. “Young artists should get the guidance from veterans in the field.”
Despite winning many competitions his university entrance changed his views regarding art competitions. In his point of view art is something free of competition. “It is difficult to censor art. A work of art is an imagination of the artist and it is impossible to censor imagination,” contends Madhura.
Madhura is planning to conduct an art exhibition in June in collaboration with his friend Chamara Madusanka. Paintings will be done by Chamara Madusanka and Madhura Sri Gamage will be working on sculptures. Another water colour paintings exhibition is also in the works. “This water colour painting exhibition will only be an exhibition for entertainment”, reveals Madhura.
Yet he is planning and studying to go beyond the concept of making art for entertainment.
Madhura hopes to achieve his aim and needs to study theories of art more. It is his point of view that an artist himself is a social representative and in order to represent social and political issues through his paintings and sculptures needs to have a vivid study and basic foundation.