No matter how small a society is, the cultural advancement that they achieve reflect upon the depth of their history. Sri Lanka is one such country. It is a small country with just a little over 21 million people. However, neither the size nor population represent the rich culture and history. The country is three thousand years old, with some of their oldest Buddhist writings going back to 29 BC. History of art in Sri Lanka is almost as old with the oldest art-form dating back almost one thousand six hundred years. The frescoes on the Sinhagiri rock fortress found in north Matale district in the central province of Sri Lanka date back to 5th century. There are many well-preserved frescoes from a much later period in Sri Lankan history also known as The Kandyan Era. Dating back to mid 15th century, these beautiful mural paintings use rich natural colours and depict the prolific Sri Lankan society. A lot of precious materials have been used in the historical art in Sri Lanka. These materials include Emerald, Jade and Ivory. Visual arts in Sri Lanka has different forms including paintings, masks, batiks and pottery.
The contemporary art scene in Sri Lanka is rich and vibrant with a lot of well-known artists. The art scene in Sri Lanka is backed by people who love and support a culture of art. A number of popular art festivals make Sri Lanka nothing short of an art lover’s paradise. The Speculo 2017 National Painting and Visual Art Exhibition, along with The Colombo Art Biennale (CAB) which is in its 4th edition this year and Sri Lanka’s highly popular open-air art exhibition cum fair, Kala Pola which is being held for almost a quarter of a century are a few of the widely popular art celebrations that make Sri Lanka a must-visit destination for art lovers. Not just these but numerous art galleries also make Sri Lanka a bustling art hub. Sri Lanka boasts of many well known Art Galleries, some of which are quite popular around the world and are not new to artists from different corners of the world. The oldest art gallery in Sri Lanka which is almost half a century old is now known as The Barefoot Gallery. It is situated in the capital city of Colombo. Another gallery that is almost as old as the Barefoot is The Sapumal Foundation that has a collection which is almost 100 years old and is almost exclusively Sri Lankan in their origins.
A few very well known artists that have influenced and shaped the modern art scene in Sri Lanka gained significant exposure around the same time the British were leaving the country as a colony in the first half of the 20th century. Few of them namely Ivan Peries, Lionel Wendt, Solias Mendes, George Keyt, David Paynter and Ananda Samarakoon among others have shaped the Sri Lankan’s art scene to its current form in the last century. The subjects these artists experimented with ranged from religion to culture to social to realism and abstract. A few artists from the country who have made a lot of name for themselves in the last twenty-five years are Sujeewa Kumari, Priyantha Udagedara, Jagath Weerasinghe and Nuwan Nalaka among a lot of many others.
Sri Lanka might be small in size but it is definitely big in its artistic contribution to the world. Even after being ravaged by a civil war, the way the society of Sri Lanka has preserved its art has been commendable.