Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 6 March 2011





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Versatile colourist

The shy, yet on occasion startingly candid-Piyaratne Hewabatage early manifested the qualities which were to mark him always: rare versatility in both subject and technique rare clarity of his aims and immense capacity for work and he is of a rare precocity. For instance, it was a time of intense interest in posters, book illustrations and artistic creations. And while a student he was designing posters, book covers, and many visual displays of artistic values.

Born on June 24, 1942 at Aranayaka in the Kegalle District, Hewabatage was succumbed to a dreadful disease polio, when he was only four years old. After an unsuccessful battle by his parents to save their son from this disease even to this day he walks about with a single half crutch as a support.

Piyaratne Hewabatage

He does not bear a momentary sick feeling about his handicap. It has given him more courage and strength to reach greater heights in his profession through grit determination.

His early education at Aranayake Maha Vidyalaya from a young age encouraged by his teachers his brush and palette interested him to take up a career in drawing and painting. With the wonders of beauty Aranayaka was a natural canvas of fertile valley and surrounded by smiling hills with stretches of luscious green paddy fields and the Maha Oya flowing by near his home.

The splendour of village life and surroundings and its scenic aura became a powerful and a lasting influence and provided an artistic stimulus to his life. After completing his secondary education in 1961 he joined Heywood College of Fine Arts to study drawing and painting.

In 1967 he obtained the Diploma in Graphic Designing and joined Grant Advertising to do part time work. In 1971 he moved over to the Tourist Board as design editor. He has won several awards at international level especially for the pictorial diary he designed for the Tourist Board every year.

During this period he has also worked as a visiting lecturer at the Department of Aesthetic studies, University of Kelaniya. Being an extremely versatile artist he works in two distinct manners - solid realism and a lighter decorative mode blending, abstract and figurative elements. He is justly regarded as an original colourist and is often at his best with the fluent handling of paint combined.

He has developed a highly personal style the most original and technically accomplished. Apart from his numerous portraits which display his gift for characterisation, he also paints subject pictures, such as peasant scenes, historic scenes and literary stories. His exhibitions retained a wide variety of designs - including birds, insects, wild life, village scenes and monochrome sketches done with pen and ink.


His pictures were characteristically in black and white and created drama by the systematic variation of elementary shapes vertically and horizontally across the picture, or radially from a point.

The subjects that he selected for his paintings were the realistic scenes of everyday life, Buddhist monks, religious places of worship, waterfalls, animals, tavern scenes, fishing boats, and the seaside.

Their colour is low-keyed the designs meticulous in balance, and their influence may be seen in his recent exhibition. His enormous output has to be carefully sifted to gauge his achivements in commercial work and media.

His close relation with state-heads, and religious dignitaries has won accolades of creative achievements to his credentials.

His work includes his contribution to the Singapore Buddhist Meditation Centre, mega projects like the Mahaweli Development Scheme, Gam Udawa, S.A.F. Games 2006, Deyata Kirula and SAARC Conference 2008.

In recognition of his work he has been presented with many awards, from Ceylon Tourist Board, Ministry of Environment, Singapore, Mona Bismarck Foundation, Paris and the Presidential Award for the best book cover.

He was assigned as official designer as well as the publisher for the 10th South Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly by the National Olympic Committee (NOC). This multi-talented and courageous artist is a and genius.

Ancient house Kitul trees Village scene A bridge
Village temple Rock temple


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