Painting with colours hidden in nature


The SHILPA 2012 – National Handicrafts Exhibition that was held at the end of 2012 had many interesting exhibits on display but this artist’s work merited closer attention from visitors due to its unique and innovative method of creations. Made using only wood- a collage of wooden chips and scraps, the works on show were eyecatching in their intricate composition.

“I have used wood scraps, wood chips and their dust to create this artwork,” the artist Udayanga Weerasinghe explained. “These are scraped using the normal ‘yathukete’ to get delicate wood scraps and wood chips. Using a ‘welikadadasiya’ (sand paper), I get the wood dust of different colouration which is then mixed with glue for this artwork,” he said.

The works are full of colour but Udayanga says these are all the natural colours of wood. “Each wood has its unique colours which I carefully select to get the suitable shade to give life to the creatures and background.” He opens a small bag and shows us fine scraps of wood. They are all different colours from black, red, orange, beige, brown to white. Black is from Ebony, red is from Pathengi wood, orange from Bakmee and yellow is from Jak – a few of the options he has.

The colour of the wood darkens from outer softwood toward the inner hardwood. “Kos lee alone can be used to get lots of different shades from yellow to orange,” he says. The timber of the Biling tree (Averrhoabilimbi) too is one of Udayanga’s favourite as it enables him to work with white.

“Wood scrapings and dust of about 60 trees has been used for this artwork,” said Udayanga pointing out the different kinds of woods used in designing the vibrant collage of Junglefowl fighting and the forested habitat. The collage also has a flowing river with rocky banks. “The water which is white is made using Billing tree scrapings which are then glued and the edges broken by hand to give a natural flowing effect,” explained Udayanga. He also used a billing wood that has been seasoned under mud for some time for the rocks. “When billing wood is submerged in mud over a period, it brings a nice ‘wairamwairam’ curvy design. I had used the same for the sky to get this effect,” Udayanga said.

Lichen that grows on the outer bark is also used. The decaying log in the ‘Junglefowl fighting’ work is naturally decaying wood. He pasted lichen on it to give a more natural look and Ebony dust mixed with glue to give depth to the hollow inside the log.
‘Weniwel’ dust which is greenish has been used for grass and foliage. For the trees, the weniwel dust has been used together with juice of some greenish leaves such as Manioc to get a darker shade of green.

While onlookers admire the work, he also shows some of his previous creations of bathing elephants, birds, Buddhist monuments, and even scenes from Colombo.

This craft was introduced to Sri Lanka about 35 years ago in the ’70s by Udayanga’s father Berty Weerasinghe. The Weerasinghe family from Badulla has mastered this method and made a living creating these works. Udayanga has already won six awards but says that he is disappointed when judges sometimes overlook his creations believing that paints has been used in the work.

With about six of the Weerasinghe families making a living out of this craft Udayanga is hopeful that if he gets support to expand his workshop, he can further develop this technique to bring out more creative designs. Udayanga can be contacted on 0713375968.

Published on SundayTimes on 06.01.2013 

The Junglefowl fight - a masterpiece made by using wood scrapes and wood dust

The Junglefowl fight – a masterpiece made by wood scrapes and wood dust

Raw materials used for the design

Raw materials used for the design

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