A Celebration of Art and Legacy of Jayantha Premachandra

May 22 2024.

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This May, Sri Lanka commemorates the life and work of one of its most distinguished artists, Jayantha Premachandra. A retrospective exhibition, book launch, and charity auction are planned to reignite appreciation for Premachandra's artistry. Jayantha Premachandra's artistic path took him across continents and explored a variety of mediums. After studying at the Government College of Fine Arts in Sri Lanka and the Moscow Art and Industry Institute in Russia, he held over 45 solo exhibitions across Europe, the UK, the former USSR, the Middle East, and Asia.

Throughout his prolific career, he created over 700 works of art some of which are displayed in museums and galleries overseas. His early work depicted scenes of Sri Lankan life and global events,  while later pieces explored romantic and spiritual themes and evolved into a modern abstract style.  

The "Art of Jayantha Premachandra" exhibition carries a special significance. It revisits a show planned for Boston in 1988 which was tragically cancelled due to the artist's sudden passing. This year, after 36 years the same exhibition will be held at the J.D.A Perera Gallery, Horton Place, Colombo 7, named after his beloved teacher. This venue is particularly special as Jayantha Premachandra himself was once a student there. The event is graced by  Dr. Alan Lightman, a renowned physicist, writer, and friend of the artist. He currently holds the prestigious position of Professor of the Practice of Humanities at MIT. Dr. Lightman was originally supposed to host Jayantha Premachandra's exhibition in the US in 1988.

This year, he serves as the Chief Guest, adding a layer of historical resonance to the occasion. Complementing the exhibition is the launch of a comprehensive autobiography ‘Art of Jayantha Premachandra’. Authored by Professor Jagath Ravindra, Dean of the Faculty of Visual & Performing Arts and his team from the Department of Painting, this publication explores Premachandra's artistic philosophy, the socio-political context that influenced his work and an understanding of his contributions to Sri Lankan Art. It promises to be a valuable resource for scholars and art enthusiasts alike.

Art with a Cause

The exhibition isn't merely a walk down memory lane. It also serves a charitable purpose. An online charity auction, featuring the oil on canvas painting ‘The Two’ (measuring 55 cm x 45 cm), began on May 17th and will be open until May 28th. Proceeds will be donated to the Department of Painting at the University of Visual & Performing Arts to support undergraduate artists. This initiative reflects Premachandra's own humanitarian spirit.  Interested bidders can participate by visiting www. jayanthapremachandra.com.

A Legacy Painted in Hope

The Jayantha Premachandra Foundation, established by Nilanka Premachandra, the artist's daughter, aims to not only revive her father's memory but also to use his art as a springboard for future endeavours. The Foundation envisions supporting emerging artists and engaging in social and community work. A previous charity auction in 2022 successfully refurbished the neuro ward at the National Hospital, a testament to the impact art can have.

This May's events celebrate more than just an artist. They celebrate a man who used his craft to bridge cultures, champion social causes, and leave an enduring mark on the world. The exhibition, book launch, and auction promise a captivating exploration of Jayantha Premachandra's artistry and a glimpse into the future his work continues to inspire. 

By Jessica Mathiaz


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