A salient feature in his artwork is a touch of realism, whether they are figurative of landscape. All his paintings are a no-pencil-no-nonsense affair. Even the initial outlines are done with brush. He likes to work wet-on-wet, or alla prima. He does not wait till the paint dries up. It makes it easier to blend in the brush strokes. Kavinda likes to work with cool colours. Perhaps his recurrent themes of sky and water are a result of his penchant for cool colours. He also prefers figurative art due to the curves and various shades afforded by skin tones.
Kavinda Silva, 27, is a late bloomer. Throughout his school days he had never entered an art competition, although he had won competitions at class level at
St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa. He realised his artistic prowess while he was doing his A/Ls.
“It began when I started surfing the net and was exposed to the works of foreign artists,” says Kavinda. Throughout his years at Campus, studying physical science at the Colombo University he dove headlong into self-study of art. He further studied art for six months at the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts.
“I’m not a fulltime artist. Being a stable artist takes a lot of compromise, which I was not capable of with my background in science.” His subsequently acquired talent does not run in the family, although both his father and brother could draw a little and his foray into the arts was thus spurned by the family. Consequently, after his university education, he no longer wanted to work and joined his family IT business.
While other artists perfect one or two mediums, Kavinda is adept at many ranging from pastel, pencil, charcoal, oil painting, water colour and colour pencil, although his favourite mediums are oil painting and charcoal respectively. His subject matter also varies from landscape, portrait to figurative art. “I like the variations,” offered Kavinda, as explanation for his different mediums.
A salient feature in his artwork is a touch of realism, whether they are figurative of landscape. Kavinda has been inspired by 19th Century artists the likes of John Singer Sargent, Anders Leonard Zorn and Joaquín Sorolla. In fact, his fundamentalist style bears affinity to that of these forerunners.
All his paintings are a no-pencil-no-nonsense affair. Even the initial outlines are done with brush strokes. “I do the landmarks in a landscape with brush outlines and then fill in colour,” said Kavinda, explaining the process.
He likes to work wet-on-wet, or alla prima. “I don’t wait till the paint dries up,” said Kavinda. He explained that it makes it easier to blend in the brush strokes. “There are many types of edges and to get the kind of edge I want I like to work wet.”
Kavinda takes from two to three hours up to a month to do some paintings. Some of his paintings are miniature 8’ by 11’ and his biggest are 4ft by 3ft. He pointed out that the size depends on where he works. “If I go on location it has to be small. I can do larger paintings if I’m working in my studio.” He confided that he is still in the process of learning and that he hopes to do larger paintings as he perfects his art.
Speaking of what inspires him to do a certain work of art, Kavinda revealed that composition is of utmost importance for him. “Not every subject offers everything I look for in the way of composition. If my subject does not have the criteria I require, I simply manipulate it to make the painting I want. For example, if my muse does not have the colour composition I require, I use what I want in my paintings.”
Kavinda admits that he likes to work with cool colours. Perhaps his recurrent themes of sky and water are a result of his penchant for cool colours. He also prefers figurative art due to the curves and various shades afforded by skin tones. “Figurative art is more complex and aesthetic,” opined Kavinda. He said that buildings are quite uninspirational and put him off.
His conceptual work titled ‘Mind and Imagination’ comes off as especially imaginative. It features a blindfolded androgynous artist brandishing a brush in front of a canvas. Kavinda prefers not to interpret paintings, but explained that the painting is about an artist’s fantasy. Despite his talent for it he says that he has long since abandoned conceptual art.
“It’s outside my comfort zone, which is working with fundamentals. Frankly, I don’t think I’m a successful conceptual artist.” Anyone who had seen his ‘Nostalgic Dream’ would beg to differ. Kavinda revealed that it was an experimental piece on how our scope narrows and how we’re boxed in by numerous factors as we grow older. It depicts a young girl running through a cornfield, which in effect, is the mane of an older
When asked if conceptual art is too exclusive and therefore unsuccessful at making sense to the masses, Kavinda pointed out that the importance of a work of art lies in the relationship between the artwork and the artist and not so much in how it is interpreted by the masses. “For example, Picasso could relate to his work, but the others just imitated it.”
When asked how an artist’s message through his or her works could influence society, Kavinda was of the opinion that a work of art does not necessarily have to convey a message. Art is for art’s sake. It’s a form of self-expression of the individual artist who creates the work of art, he opined. “What’s important is the relationship between the artist and the work of art he creates.” However, he pointed out that art can be used to heighten spirituality in an all physical world. “Art is like meditation. It’s a form of meditation and is often therapeutic in much the same way music is.”
He is not only an artist but also used to teach art part time. When asked, being a an artist and an art teacher at such a young age, he considers himself below par to other older artists, Kavinda says that age, or rather the lack of it, is not a barrier to mastering art. “Any artiste, even musicians invariably improves with age, as the artiste gain experience. But it doesn’t mean that people who discover a talent later in life are inferior.” After all Vincent van Gogh started painting in his late 20s and Claude Monet began painting with a passion only when he was in his 40s.
For this self-taught artist the most interesting aspect of teaching is sharing knowledge. When asked how important art theory is for mastering art, Kavinda pointed out that some professional artists have never seen the inside of an art school. “Artists are not always created in academies.”
After all professional artists like Frida Kahlo and Ai Weiwei never went to art school. “You grow as an artist with experience.” Having said that, Kavinda reiterated the importance of learning the fundamentals. “Whether you use theory in art or not it’s important to learn it. With experience and exposure to new influences artists develop their own intrinsic style.”
Field of art
Referring to the standard of Sri Lankan art and market for art, Kavinda opined that although there are good artists they cannot make a living off art since there isn’t an established market for art in Sri Lanka. “In fact, the market for art in most third world countries doesn’t measure up to international standards.”
He pointed out that the few who buy artworks are interested in their interior decoration value. “There are very few art collectors in Sri Lanka.” Most of his art sold in online galleries are bought by foreign collectors. “My first artwork was sold to a foreigner,” revealed Kavinda. He also observed that where there is no audience, art criticism also lags behind. He pointed out that dialogue is essential for the survival and development of art as a field.
Kavinda hopes to conduct more workshops in the future. “I want to work in public, so others can see what artists do,” said Kavinda, explaining that this is one way he could instil artistic inclinations in the general public.