Chandraguptha Thenuwara

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body, memory, pain, peace, people
Visual Arts (etching, painting, portrait, printmaking, sculpture)
Europe, Eastern, Asia, Southern and Central
Russian Federation, Sri Lanka
Colombo, Moscow
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June 4, 2003
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Barrels block my view

Chandraguptha Thenuwara is a leading Sri Lankan artist. Born in Galle in 1960, he studied painting in Colombo and Moscow. He is Director of the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts in Colombo which he founded in 1993 and Lecturer of Aesthetic Studies at the University of Colombo. He has an active career as an artist, exhibiting world-wide and is driven by the concept of ´Barrelism´. This is a concept he claimed as his own in 1997 when he found Sri Lanka in a war situation and the visual landscape was occupied by barrels. Since then he has incorporated barrels and camouflage in his art works in a variety of forms and media.
Leading Sri Lankan artist, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, was born in Galle in 1960. His undergraduate studies in Painting were at the University of Kelaniya in Colombo, after which he continued postgraduate studies in Russia at the Moscow State Art Institute. He returned to Sri Lanka in 1993 to found the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts. He lives and works in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Thenuwara sees the major turning point in his career as ´Barrelism´. This is a concept he claimed as his own in 1997 through a public declaration at an International Artists Camp in Sri Lanka. Until then he had chosen to draw the human figure but on his return to Sri Lanka he found the capital drawn into war and, as he stated, ´today, if someone asked me to portray the present state of Sri Lankan society, I have nothing to draw but barrels. Why? Barrels have occupied the space around us.´ The situation inspired him to draw ´Barrelscapes´ instead of landscapes and to expose the symbolism of the barrels used by the military. For Thenuwara, they denote state power and Sinhala racism.

´Barrelism´ has been the theme for several solo exhibitions in Sri Lanka since 1997; for installations including the ´Cities on the Move´ world exhibition tour (1997-99); the 1st Asian Triennale at Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan (1998) and at ´Crafty Thoughts´, an exhibition at the University of Liverpool Art Gallery in 2002. Thenuwara was invited as artist in residence at CAIR, Centre for Art International Research at Liverpool John Moores University.

Chandraguptha Thenuwara is committed to the education of young artists in Sri Lanka, both as Director of the Vibhavi Institute of Fine Arts and as Lecturer of Aesthetic Studies at the University of Colombo. He has curated a number of international architecture exhibitions and was a Board Member of the Architectural Association Foundation in London from 1996-97. He has participated in several international artists workshops, including camps organised under the auspices of Triangle Arts with Khoj in New Delhi, India in 1998 and Theertha Workshops in Sri Lanka in 2001.

SOURCE: Quotations from ´A conversation with Sri Lankan artist Chandraguptha Thenuwara´ by Darshana Medis, 1999 on (see website refs).
Author: Judith Staines


Chandraguptha Thenuwara is a leading Sri Lankan artist. He was born in Galle, Sri Lanka in 1960 and studied for his BFA in Painting at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, University of Kelaniya, graduating in 1981. He went to Russia to study for an MFA between 1985 and 1992 at the Moscow State Art Institute. He returned to Sri Lanka to found the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts in 1993 where he is Director. He is also Lecturer at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies in Colombo where he lives and works. He exhibits internationally and is particularly noted for his ongoing series titled ´Barrelism´ that incorporates barrels and camouflage in a variety of forms and media.



2001 Monument for Neelan Thiruchelvam, Kynsey Terrace, Colombo, Sri Lanka 2000 Monument for the Disappeared, Raddoluwa Junction, Sri Lanka


Exhibition / Installation
2002 ´Crafty Thoughts´, JMU Art Collection, Liverpool, UK 2001 Moving Collection, Japan 1999 First Asian Triennial, Fukuoaka Asian Art Museum, Japan 1999 ´Cities on the Move´, Hayward Gallery, London; Louisiana Museum, Denmark; PS1 Gallery New York (1998); CapsMusee, Bordeaux, France (1998); Vienna Secession, Austria (1997). 1995 7th Asia Pacific Biennial, Dhaka, Bangladesh 1994 ´New Approaches in Contemporary Sri Lankan Art´, National Art Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka


Exhibition / Installation
2001 Exhibition of Paintings, Paradise Road Galleries, Colombo, Sri Lanka 1999 ´Camouflage´, VAFA Gallery, Ethul Kotte, Sri Lanka 1998 ´Barrelism: Recent Works´, the Heritage Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka 1997 ´Barrelism & Other Works´, the Heritage Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka 1995 ´In Spacetime´, National Gallery, Colombo & British Council, Kandy, Sri Lanka 1992 ´Paintings and Etchings´, Izhevsk City Gallery, Russia


2002 Artist in Residence, Liverpool School of Art and Design, UK
2001 Theertha International Artists Workshop, Lunuganga, Sri Lanka
1999 Fukuoaka, Fukuoaka Asian Art Museum
1999 International Artists Camp, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
1998 International Artists Camp, Habarana, Sri Lanka
1998 Khoj Artists Workshop, Modinagar, New Delhi, India
1997 International Artists Camp, Kandalama, Sri Lanka
1997 Bunka Prize for special achievement in painting, Japan-Sri Lanka Cultural Fund
1992 Open Air Sculpture Symposium, Izhevsk, Russia


Fukuoka Triennale 2002

Review of Sri Lanka arts scene for 2nd Fukuoka Triennale, Japan, 2002.

A conversation with Sri Lankan artist

World Socialist Web Site: A conversation with Sri Lankan artist Chandraguptha Thenuwara, 1999.

Khoj International Artists Workshop

Report on Theertha International Artists Workshop, Sri Lanka, 2001

Virtual Manchester

Review of Crafty Thoughts exhibition 2002 with images of Chandraguptha Thenuwara´s work.

Crafty Thoughts

Exhibition review - 2002

Cities on the Move

Full CV for Chandraguptha Thenuwara and information on Cities on the Move project.
Three Women
Thousand Barrels
Death Not Foretold II