Pakkiyarajah Pushpakanthan was born in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts of the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka and is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual and Technological Arts at the Swami Vipulananda Institute for Aesthetic Studies, Eastern University, Sri Lanka. Pushpakanthan’s practice predominantly consists of detailed ink and watercolour drawings on paper. The mood of the artists work draws from his first-hand experiences in the conflict and trauma of the war in the North. By exploring unforgettable memories of death, disappearance, torture and wounds, the artist uses his work as a space to lay bare the painful realities of the past so that people can grieve and heal. Rather than searching for answers of solutions, he moves through refined shifts of perception, hoping that the spectator is able to empathize with the trauma and it’s meaning. He has exhibited in Sri Lanka, India and the UK, and is represented by Saskia Fernando Gallery. His work is in private collections in Sri Lanka, Europe and North America. He is a recipient of a South Asia Studies Fellowship at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
The ‘Wounded Landscape’ portrays the reality of disappearances, unforgettable memories and events inextricably intertwined with the land. I continue to confront the chilling immediacy of disappeared people in the lands we live in whether it is Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Myanmar, Iraq, Palestine and so many other places.
As a silent witness of stories past and present, the land holds evidence of every single experience: of joy and suffering, of life and death. The beautiful sights of stretching beaches, luscious jungles, and waterfalls of the island might also be terrifying, since they mask what could be, and often is, actually hidden. So, rather than the sensuous scenery that can be easily perceived, the landscape unseen— or forced to disappear— interests me more.
Violence and suffering may elicit different responses. For instance, while the pain is devastating in both cases, the Easter attack victims’ families were allowed to bury their dead, whereas the relatives of the war time disappeared are prevented from seeing their dead. For the latter, there is no closure, no opportunity to begin healing, and hope itself becomes torture. Through this series I attempt to express the fear and imaginings of the relatives of the missing. They grapple with the uncertainty that those who disappeared might still be suffering somewhere, and they need to share this trauma with others to come to terms with it.
Pakkiayarajah Pushpakanthan 2019