Thilak Samarawicrema
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Ink of Lanka
line drawings wire ink of lanka launch

INTRODUCTION by SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda

Voluble, impatient and impassioned, Tilak Samarawickrema is sometimes more Italian than Sri Lankan. He spent his most formative years in Italy and this has left an indelible impression on his work. However, a glance at his drawing reveals a man deeply grounded in the art and culture of his own country, Sri Lanka. The limpid curves of Samarawickrema’s lines echo the vaka deka, the classic double curve which had characterized Sinhala art for almost two thousand years.

In Italy Samarawickrema immersed himself in Italian life. Whilst pursuing his architectural studies, he plunged head first into a colourful, bohemian world of art, design and politics. The Italian experience liberated Samarawickrema and he began to draw, discovering within himself an almost effortless mastery of the curve. It was the beginning of a career which would see him exhibit his line drawings all over the world, from Rome and Milan to New York and Sao Paulo.

Ink of Lanka provides a retrospective view of his art. In over 100 drawings and etchings interspersed with photographs, it tells the story of Tilak Samarawickrema, the man and the artist. Each drawing has a life of its own. Restless and never still, like the man himself they reverberate with energy and movement. Touches of colour here and there add a striking depth, bringing out the nuances of his line. At the core of almost every drawing is a sense of space. Expressing the artist’s minimalist instincts, this emptiness enhances the simplicity of his art.

Redefining the line, Samarawickrema creates something new out of the ancient past, bringing the rhythms, patterns and stories of Lanka to life in swift and flowing curves. The Japanese architect Kenzo Tange once compared tradition with a chemical reaction “The role of tradition is that of a catalyst, which furthers a chemical reaction but is no longer detectable in the end result.” (Jonathan Glancy, The Guardian, 23rd March 2005). Like Kenzo Tange, Tilak Samarawickrema seems to distill the essence of the modern spirit, fusing it with a deep understanding and feeling for his own culture. This fusion of modernism with tradition embodies Samarawickrema’s approach to his own work. The result is startling and subversive, surreal and sometimes sublime.

As an architect, a designer and an artist, Samarawickrema has made his own distinctive mark. Even now, he is always experimenting and exploring new horizons. Translating his lines into towering sculptures in wire, he just added yet another dimension to his work. As you enter his house, the threads dance upon the wall like living things.

Ink of Lanka is a journey through the world of Tilak Samarawickrema and it is full of his personality, his feelings and his lust for life. It is a story which begins in Sri Lanka and moves to Italy and America and then Italy again, before finally coming back to Sri Lanka. Like his curves, his artistic journey seems to have come a full circle.


2011 - Contemporary Sri Lankan Art Asia House London, Collective.

2011 – Galle Literary Festival, Saskia Fernando Gallery, Collective.

1994 - New Approaches in Contemporary Sri Lanka Art. The Art Gallery of Colombo Sri Lanka Collective

1982 - Collective, 9th International Triennale, Grenchen, Switzerland.

1982 - Holds exhibition in Sri Lanka at the Lionel Wendt Gallery, Colombo.

1980 - One man show, Rizzoli Gallery, 5th Avenue, New York.

1980 - Returns to Italy from New York and continued work in fine arts and fabric design.

Illustrated the book ‘Andare of Sri Lanka’ published in Italy.

1979 - Moves to New York and exhibits at the Rizzoli Gallery, 5th Avenue, New York.

1977 - Collective, X Quadriennale di Roma ‘Foreign artists living in Italy’

1977 - One man show,Galleria dell’L Obelisco,Rome.

1972 - Represented Sri Lanka, XII Biennale di sao Paolo, Brazil

1972 - One man show, Gallery II Nabla, Milan

1972 - Collective, Premio Suzara,Italy

1971 - Collective,Fiera della Grafica, Galleria dell ‘Annunciata,Italy’

1971 - Collective, Ceylon Society of Arts, National Art Gallery, Colombo.
1971 - Collective, Gallery Alliance Francaise, Colombo

1970 - One man show, Samudra Gallery, Colombo.z

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