Herbs are an essential feature of people’s lives in romance, religion, health and superstition. Grown in gardens for millenniums, herbs were often used for medical and erotic purposes in massage. Today the exotic flora and medicinal herbs found on hoardings, name boards, and other advertising material across the Sri Lankan landscape signifies of an industry growing rapidly; a commercial erotic massage industry. In Sri Lanka prostitution is illegal and in response to this Priyantha Udagedara creates flora as a ruse to disguise the real activities behind closed doors with his new series titled ‘The Herbal Garden’.
Priyantha Udagedara’s earlier work exemplifies terror and beauty combined while ‘The Herbal Garden’ becomes an extension of this theme in a post war context. He expresses the subject of the exploitation of the female body in an industry projected locally as both exotic and of a healing nature.
After completing his PhD at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, Udagedara returned to Sri Lanka in 2014, immediately presenting an exhibition of his work at the Saskia Fernando Gallery. His work, in the form of paintings and drawings, titled Paradise Lost presented a series of aesthetically pleasing imagery that when observed from a closer view contained disturbing and traumatic imagery. The juxtaposition of these visual representations was the narrative for his analysis of post-war Sri Lanka, a paradise island that hides it’s history as a war torn land. In this his second series the artists signature play and medium remains the same, while his subject has evolved to represent the issues facing the island in a more contemporary context.