Selected works from 2010 to 2013
Broadcasting Place Gallery, Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom.
Lace Market Gallery, New College Nottingham, United Kingdom.
Nepenthes Paradise: Understanding Priyantha Udagedara’s Practice
Having lived through the Sri Lankan Civil War and witnessed the human capability for brutal-
ity, it is a testament to Udagedara’s practice and principles that he sophistically educates his
audience through his paintings. He does this while continuously referencing the duality of his
cultural upbringing; to have lived within a region and a society consistently recognised from a
vantage point as one of the most beautiful places and peoples on Earth, while the myopic situa-
tion dictates a much more complex subsistence during civil unrest. The artist’s narrations are
further compounded by his first-hand witnessing of rampant crimes against humanity while
growing up in paradise.
Artists that come to mind when studying Udagedara’s work, are Jake and Dino’s Chapman,
who also use similar tools in their work, but more importantly – both test the vantage point of
the viewer. The Chapman’s sculpture Hell (2000) leaves their audiences with conflicting mes-
sages through their layering of the viewing field with stereotypical objects such as toy soldiers,
which upon closer inspection are grotesquely mutilated by the throes of war. However, it’s the
evocative visceral feeling of painter Frida Kahlo’s (d.1954) self-portraits that are on the same
emotional plane as Udagedara’s work. Both conceptually paint human strife with necessary
association to the natural environment, which grants locality to the subject matter while inform-
ing the audience of the barbed and thorny relationship that can erupt when human will for iden-
tity and landscape collide. Udagedara understands this clearly, and by deliberately incorporat-
ing the local flora and fauna of Sri Lanka into his works, he allows the audience to become
grounded with a sense of place. Viewers are first seduced by their recognition of these beautiful
objects, which enable them to generally identify the ecosystem and ecology in which the artist
has set the story. On closer inspection they are caught like a Venus flytrap, a Sri Lankan Nepen-
thes, into the digestive system of what transpired in this land during the last 30 years. This
undoubtedly provides an eerie and fragile foundation for the viewer, who can become absorbed
deeper and deeper into the complicated and haunting story of the artists’ nation and its identity.
It is no wonder title for his series of works bare the name of ‘Paradise Lost’ (2012). They form
a complex collection of paintings that individually tackle the juxtaposition of truths and myths
from the perspective of a society that must heal while continuously cast under the gaze of a
romantic mirage of what the island is perceived to be. Think of this work in terms of the saying
‘It is bitter-sweet.’, which in this case, metaphorically describes his process of integrating
iconographic beautification objects such as plastic flowers commonly used in Sri Lanka to
enshroud images of the dead or the disappeared while simultaneously used to honour the
shrines of the many gods and goddesses worshiped within this society.
Through a series of colonisations and regimes the Teardrop Nation’s religions and faiths have
expanded and flourished, and morphed. Udagedara deconstructs the layering of religious faiths
within the subject matter of his paintings. In doing so he narrates the story of a culture that is
accepting of differences, can seek comfort for the wrongs they have afflicted upon one another,
and embrace a merger of traditions and beliefs. Yet – the powerful question of ‘Why?’ is at the
centre of his quest to understand the capacity for acceptance amidst the human wrong doings.
Udagedara peels back the flesh of his subjects, in attempts to reveal their evil natures, and to
expose the nude human or god. Not one of his stripped characters solely identifies with one
faith, instead they are, in their exposed and raw selves, conceptualisations of assimilated and
powerfully devout people whose nation is built on layers of complexities, mistakes, and like
Snow White and her poisoned apple, they have been the victims of the ideal of paradise. The
reality that Udagedara exposes is that there is no reason, nor romance in such tragedy.
Furthermore, his work has become progressively darker in subject matter and increasingly
politically charged since 2006, while simultaneously more seductive. Perhaps it’s the fact that
the subject he is investigating and storytelling garners increased traction due to the nature of the
expanding networked world. This is a moment in time where understanding globalization and
world issues, and their impact across all cultures, is ever more a human responsibility and
expectation. It has always been the artists’ role to deliver messages in new ways. Now broad-
casting methods enable artists to tell their stories to greater audiences, and these audiences can
access the supplementary information and details to further understand the issues discussed by
the artists. In an effort to understand a social crisis both artist and audience, operating within the
information culture, actively seek and demand more content so that truths and myths can be
deciphered and a picture of the global situation can be drawn.
Combine this composite political, local and global discourse with symbols from a tropical ecol-
ogy such as the flora and fauna native to Sri Lanka, icons known for their power of attraction
and their ability to present a sense of place, and the artist constructs an emotional grip on the
viewer; that of beholding beauty and terror in one space. Priyantha Udagedara’s practice rises
out of a Sri Lankan culture that is steeped in centuries of aesthetic traditions and established
methodologies in painting. He takes on board nuances of these processes and works them
delicately and powerfully into a contemporary discourse on the socio-historical and political
situation of Sri Lanka, and he tells his audience the real story of paradise.
Dr. Megan L. Smith
10 August 2013
List of Images
P. 05. Paradise Lost I (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas. 90 cm (Diameter).
P. 06. Adam (2012) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board, 75 cm (Diameter).
P. 07. Moth (2013) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 75 cm (Diameter).
P. 08. The Lost Heart (2013) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 75 cm (Diameter).
P .09. Eve (2013) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 75 cm (Diameter).
P. 10. Paradise Lost V (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas. 152 X 101 cm.
P. 11. Paradise Lost II. (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas. 76 X 76 X 6 cm.
P. 12. Paradise Lost IV (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas. 152 X 109 cm.
P. 12. Paradise Lost III (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas. 152 X 109 cm.
P. 13. Paradise Lost V (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas. 152 X 101 cm.
P. 14. Paradise Lost (2011) Acrylic, Collage and Bandage on Canvas.152 X 218 cm.
P. 15. No Land for Angels (2011) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 40 X 30 cm.
P. 16. No Land for Angels II (2011) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 40 X 30 cm.
P. 17. No Land for Angels I (2011) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 40 X 30 cm.
P. 18. No Land for Angels (2011) Acrylic, Charcoal and Collage on Board. 40 X 30 cm.
P. 19. The Hunter I (2012) Acrylic and collage on Board. 65 X 50 cm.
P. 20. The Hunter II (2012) Acrylic and collage on Board. 65 X 50 cm.
P. 21. Skeleton Mountain (2013) Acrylic and Collage on Canvas Board. 75 cm (Diameter).
Born in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Date of Birth : 22-06-1975
2008 PhD Research Candidate (from 2008) at the Faculty of Art and Society in the Leeds
2007 MA, Contemporary Fine Art Practice (Merit). Leeds Metropolitan University, United
2003 BFA, Institute of Aesthetic Studies University of Kelaniya Sri Lanka.
Solo Exhibitions - Selected
2013 Lace Market Gallery Nottingham.
2013 Paradise Lost, Colorida Galeria De Arte E Design LDA, Lisbon.
2012 Paradise Lost, Broadcasting Place Gallery, Leeds Metropolitan University.
2010 Exhibition of Painting, Paradise Road Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2007 M.A. show 6th floor H building, Leeds Metropolitan University.
2006 Exhibition of Painting, Paradise Road Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2004 Exhibition of Painting, Barefoot Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2003 Exhibition of Painting, Paradise Road Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2009 Leeds Art Fair, The Light, United Kingdom.
2007 Situation Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.
2007 ‘Interim’ Leeds Metropolitan M A Student exhibition in old BBC building, Leeds.
2005 An exhibition of Sri Lankan & Australian artists at The Cross Art Project, Sydney,
2004 International Artist Camp, Habarana, Sri Lanka, Organised by Jorge Keyt Foundation.
2003 Gangcey of Sri Lanka, Lalith Kala Academy Gallery, New Delhi, India.
2004 Gap Zero 3, The Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2004 Young Contemporaries – by George Keyt Foundation, Harold Peries Gallery,
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2002 Young Contemporaries, George Keyt Foundation, National Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri
2002 National Painting & Sculpture Exhibition by Sri Lanka Kala Mandalaya, National Art
Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2006 President Scholarship, Awarded by the Presidents Fund Sri Lanka.
2004 D.B. Danapala Scholarship, Awarded by Institute of Aesthetic Studied,
University of Kelaniya Sri Lanka.
Academic Activities and Conferences
2013 International Conference on Asian Art, Culture and Heritage -21st - 23rd August 2013
at University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
2013 Postgraduate Research Conference - 18 June 2013 at Bristol University, United
2013 Curator. Beauty and Agony - New Art from Sri Lanka, Broadcasting Place Gallery
2012 Visiting Artist Lecture - 18th April 2012 at Leeds Metropolitan University, United
2012 Postgraduate Research Conference - 9 January 2012 at Gandhi Hall Leeds Metropoli-
tan University Kingdom.
2011 I have participated in a workshop and conference at the Royal College of Art, London
November 2011 and attended two workshops as well.
2010 I was accepted for the conference Forms of Documentation and Presentation of
Artistic Research at the DOCH, University of Dance and Circus and Konstnärliga
Forskar skolan in Stockholm 27 – 30 September 2011.
2010 CAGD Research Presentations - “Identity and Hybridity in Visual Art - Case Study of
Sri Lanka”, The Leeds School of Contemporary Art and Graphic Design, United
2013 Chambers, C. (2013) Priyantha Udagedara. Leeds.
2013 Udagedara, P. (2013) Representation of Picturesque Paradise - A Case Study of Sri
Lanka. University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
2012 Beauty and Agony (Exhibition Catalogue) Broadcasting Place Gallery, Leeds Metro-
2012 Paradise Lost (Exhibition Catalogue) Broadcasting Place Gallery, Leeds Metropolitan
2012 Paradise Lost and Found - Interview with Julia Williams. Published at:
2012 Paradise Lost Exhibition by Priyantha Udagedara. Published at:
2010 Stirling, L. (2010) Exhibition Catalogue of Priyantha Udagedara. Colombo: Paradise
2009 Bandaranayake, S. and Dharmasiri, A. (2009) Sri Lankan Painting in the 20th Cen
tury. Sri Lanka National Trust for Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Dr. Megan L. Smith, Dr. Liz Stirling, Dr. Rebekka Kill, Dr. Traci Kelly
Mike Powell, Fiona Bromiley, Nilushika Pathirana.