All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow

  • Ranjan Aluwihare on his newest exhibition inspired by travel

August 2021 at the Barefoot Gallery Colombo will be defined by the watercolour musings of artist Ranjan Aluwihare capturing idyllic moments from the artist’s travels around Europe, Morocco, and Sri Lanka. The exhibition, titled “Light & Shadows”, is Aluwihare’s third exhibition with the Barefoot Gallery, and is a series of 45 medium-sized watercolour paintings Influenced by his own journeys to Greece, Italy, France, Ireland, Morocco, and Sri Lanka and will run from 5 to 29 August.

Speaking to Brunch, Aluwihare shared that he has been working on and developing Light & Shadows since 2018. “It’s a privilege to show them,” Aluwihare said, adding: “It’s also quite uplifting to show these works, and we all need a bit of uplifting with the pandemic.”

Aluwihare shared that he will also be conducting a special day-long workshop on watercolour painting on 14 August at the Barefoot Gallery Colombo, though this is limited to 10 participants for maximum value.

For Aluwihare, watercolouring is a mix of hobby and meditation. Having begun drawing at age four (his family was very encouraging of his interest in art; all three of his siblings have also gone on to become artists, and his mother was an artist, couturist, and painting), he went on to study at the Chelsea School of Art, London before moving away from fine art to focus on architecture.

Of all the mediums Aluwihare has experimented with over the years, watercolour has been the most challenging and the most rewarding.

Having experimented with all forms of artistic mediums, watercolour was what appealed most to him because of its fluidity. “You can’t control it because it does its own thing. Sometimes it’s really successful, and sometimes accidents happen and you have to start all over,” Aluwihare explained, adding that unlike other mediums like oil painting, where you are able to paint over, you don’t have the same flexibility with watercolouring.

Having worked with many watercolour masters over the years, Aluwuihare explained that to him, a great watercolour painting comes together in three stages: First, the composition, then the first washes that need to be left dry, and finally the darker tones and values that complete the painting. Working over the years to master watercoloring (something which he is still very much learning to do), for Aluwihare, watercolouring is something of a form of meditation.

“It invokes calmness and serenity, really, for me,” he said, adding that it can get boring sometimes and there are days where he just doesn’t want to paint, but that it’s about constantly evaluating your work and evolving. 

With Light & Shadows, Aluwihare carefully captures his fascination with how light and shadow play a part in what we see and in art, weaving this connection through the exhibition, and exemplifying his favourite quote by Leo Tolstoy: “All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”

Answering what now seems like an old-age question, he shared that while the pandemic didn’t influence him on a creative level, it did give him the chance to focus on finishing his paintings. He said that creatively, he wanted to move away from the pandemic to create something uplifting, and through capturing tableaus he has seen on his travels, he hopes to build a sense of upliftment in those viewing his art and encourage them to travel – a simple act that has been heavily suppressed by the pandemic.

Concluding, Aluwihare shared his views on art in this troubled time, saying that the most important thing one can do as an artist is to be honest and create from the heart, noting that there is no right or wrong way to create art.

Light & Shadows by Ranjan Aluwihare will take place from 6 to 29 August 2021 at the Barefoot Gallery Colombo.