Marco Manamperi | ARTRA’s Emerging Artist Best of 2023

Mahela ‘Marco’ Manamperi is a rising emerging artist in the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene today. Born in Balangoda, a large town in the Ratnapura District, Marco wields a distinguished style in his digital medium. With a scalpel’s proficiency, he utilizes stunning visual symbols to cut to the heart of society’s dissent, underlying his works with potent commentary on the social and political workings of the world around him. An adamant tech enthusiast, Marco navigates the realms of UI/UX as a Co-founder of ZeroOne Technologies. He documents the chaotic beauty of daily life through his running visual diary Project_de_marco. Pixels, to Marco, serve as a medium that are the storytellers of the current age, with a unique ability to rebel against the convoluted political narratives that linger in the collective consciousness.

Rising to prominence during the Aragalaya protests in 2022, Marco was one of an amassing collective of artists propelling engagement in the movement – both on and offline– through their striking socially and politically critical art. His works at the time were deeply evocative of the entrenched unrest, agitation and injustice suffered by the Sri Lankan everyman as people were caught in the maw of hardship due to economic and political instability in the country. Marco’s works very quickly distinguished itself from the rest through the arresting ability to capture an audience and to weave visual motifs and political symbols into his work to swiftly and concisely move the viewer. In short, Marco’s digital paintings are not simply visually stunning but strikes the rare balance of also being wickedly critical in their approach to social and political commentary. His art has and continues to be exceedingly effective in conveying succinctly cutting messages through eye-catching imagery that speaks deeply to the masses. 

As a part of ARTRA Collection and the Emerging Artist | Best of 2023, Marco has truly honed this aspect of his style in recent years, none so aptly displayed as in his latest collection ‘Pixel? Visual? SOMETHING Symphony’. Debuting this collection at the Art Trail, Galle Literary Festival 2024, Marco displays a stunning collection of digital paintings that delve into the nuances of the human condition. An ode to the art of existence, he touches on a breadth-spanning degree of experiences in this collection, denoting themes such as economic collapse, the struggles of soaring inflation, protest, reverly, inhibition and so much more. To learn more about ARTRA’s successful venture at the Art Trail and our partnership with the Galle Literary Festival this year, click here

In his latest collection, Marco navigates a sliding scale of nuanced commentary, taking a critical eye to socio-political occurrences in the Sri Lankan landscape following the eruptive Aragalaya movement in 2022, and takes a microscopic approach to depicting the on-going aftershocks of corruption, dissent and inhospitable economic standards to the Sri Lankan everyman. His painting ‘Exodus’ spotlights the long occurring exodus of skill talent out of the country due to the increasingly dire economic conditions. He centralizes the human brain in the piece and depicts its image flowing into that of a jutting scroll and a camera lens. The scroll serves as a significant motif denoting educational institutions and the rapid exodus of educated and skilled talent out of the country. In connecting the brain directly to the image of the heart, the artist indicates the conflict in locals between the desire to stay and the compulsion to flee an increasingly unstable political and economical landscape. In works such as ‘Reverence’ and ‘Cyclone Mercer’ he reorients back to the narrative of the Aragalaya movement. The former depicts a visual narrative of a gilded gas tank, surrounded by lush drapes of flower garlands whilst perched upon a lavishly trim cushion. He creates a potent visual motif denoting excess and reverent worship, in a scathing criticism of the economical climate of the times. ‘Cyclone Mercer’ serves as a potent visual representation of his collection, situating a solitary wanderer at the helm of a society on the verge of cataclysmic reform, representing Sri Lanka’s enduring struggle for dignity amidst the forces of corruption and oppressive institutions. In the overarching scope of his collection, Marco foregrounds a plethora of iconography such as the ancient motif of the Sigiriya Maidens, and altars of worship in his other works, capturing broad themes of indulgence and dysfunction (on individualistic and state levels), striving to critique not only contemporary issues but also the raw wounds of history such as colonialism through post-colonial motifs in his art. To view his catalog of works, as well as those of our Emerging Artist under ARTRA Collection click here

ARTRA Collection was formulated to showcase Sri Lankan contemporary art in a curated format across public spaces. It showcases Emerging Artists from regions outside of the focal artistic hemisphere of Colombo in an effort to cultivate regional epicentres of art across the country, where a diverse range of artists can voice their alternate narratives of the story of Sri Lanka. Each artist under the ARTRA Collection was selected under a rigorous criteria including strength of concept, articulation and execution, professionalism and unique identity. To read more about the vision behind the ARTRA Collection and the rest of our roster of Emerging Artists, click here

Marco Manamperi rose to prominence during the 2022 Aragalaya protest movement against the Sri Lankan government, his works a moving conduit for the cacophony of unrest and injustice felt by citizens suffering due to rampant corruption. Co-Founder of ZeroOne Technologies, Marco is a UI/UX designer and artist, his Project_de_marco initiative is a long-running visual documentary of his everyday experiences that comprises digital works and collages. This year, he participated in the Art Trail during The Galle Literary Festival, showcasing his works on national scale alongside ARTRA’s Emerging Artists | Best of 2020, 2022 & 2023, and his works featured in ARTRA Magazine’s latest edition ‘Galle Fort in the Contemporary’ e66. His works were displayed at The Club HNB, Colombo, and will be exhibited at Park Street Mews on Saturday May 4th from 10am to 8pm, and at 6.30pm to 7.30pm, Marco himself will conduct a curated tour of his displayed works. 

Written by Kavinu Cooray

27th April, 2024 Visual Art | Paintings