Her father was a lawyer and he made a habit of sketching the likeness of criminals so he could remember them. This exposure proved an uncanny inspiration for her own work of line drawings later in her life. Many years later 55-year-old Kekuli Unamboowe Abeyrathne turned her leisure activity, her passion for art, into her lifelong career.
Kekuli commenced her career as an artist with abstract art and over time her forte evolved enough to produce intricate line drawings embodied in acrylic painted canvases, landscape art, exclusive line drawings and line designs for ceramic and porcelain ware.
Born on September 22, 1962, Kekuli received her education from St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo. She got married in 1984 when she was 21 to Kapil Abeyrathne who was the mayor of Ratnapura at the time. She has two daughters who are always by her side.
“Drawing was my passion since I was a kid. My father was a lawyer and he used to sketch criminals just so he could remember them. I think I got the ability and passion for drawing from my father,” Kekuli recollected.
Though she used to doodle earlier she had formally started drawing only after the death of her husband.
“When my husband was alive and till my daughters graduated I was engaged in household activities full time. I helped my husband with his political career. But after he passed away, I didn’t know how to pass my time. It was my daughter who made me start drawing. She brought me paint and made me do it,” Kekuli explained what motivated her to take her pastime as a career.
Kekuli’s signature is acrylic pen line drawings on canvas. She has made it a passion where she draws whatever design that comes to mind. “I enjoy painting and will continue to enjoy painting as long as I can,” said Kekuli. She was able to get down a special pen from UK and use special sheets for her line drawings.
Her first exhibition ‘A tumultuous journey towards tranquil state of mind’ was held on 2015 at Lionel Wendt Art Centre and consisted of abstract and acrylic drawings on canvas.
Her second exhibition titled ‘Perceptual lines: A cultural Journey from Sri Lanka to Japan’, was held in Tokyo at the New Tomorrow Cafe, from April 24 to May 7, to celebrate centuries of friendship between the two nations. “It was a combination of Sri Lankan and Japanese art.”
She launched her very first Exclusive Platinum plated Porcelain collection at the venue. “There is a high demand for painted ceramic and I used my own designs in the collection,” she added.
Kekuli opined that appreciation of art is an integral part of Japanese culture as opposed to Sri Lanka. Yet Kekuli also noted that, with events such as Kala Pola and Art Street being organized annually, Sri Lankan artists are now gaining due recognition.
According to Kekuli, the exhibition in Japan gave her the opportunity to meet a renowned fashion designer in Tokyo and Paris Yohji Yamamoto and, Bill Hersey, a renowned writer for a magazine in Tokyo who covers celebrity stories to Diplomatic and other social events.
With the popularity of fabric painting on the rise, Kekuli is contemplating exploring the possibilities of t-shirt painting using her own designs. “And I hope to have another exhibition in Sri Lanka in the coming years. I also have plans to improve the art of painting porcelain,” said Kekuli of her future plans.