Port City Colombo and ARTRA

Cities are important to societies. Cities are components through which culture is communicated and translated through monuments and sculptures embodying symbiotism where tradition and culture interlink. With the burgeoning urbanscape of Port City Colombo, its Design Competition in partnership with ARTRA, for the beach sculpture and interactive wall, treads purposefully in its aim to connect society with the nation’s cultural roots through art. As we conversed with judges Anoma Wijewardene, revered artist and Ruchi Jeyanathan, esteemed architect, we explored their perspective on what it means to have public art in new cityscapes and what they see in the artists whose works have been selected for the final submissions.

Port City Colombo’s Design Competition for the beach sculpture under the theme of ‘Dream’ was inaugurated on the 29th of July, 2020. The concept of the competition comprised the feelings and expressions of freedom, belonging in an evolving world. Artists from all over the island were invited to submit their perspective to this concept to build a sculpture that encompassed a true Sri Lankan spirit. The competition closed submissions on the 25th of August, 2020 and respected judges, Artist Anoma Wijewardene, Architect Ruchi Jeyanathan & Shilanthi Abayagunawardana from Academy of Design chose three submissions through a meticulous criterion whose names were revealed on the 9th of September, 2020. The top three submissions comprised sculptures by students Lakal Piyarathna from the University of Moratuwa, Rochelle Fernando from the Academy of Design and a team submission of artists Tharindu Perera, Viranga Waduge and ARTRA Canvas artist Pulasthi Handunge from the City School of Architecture.

Anoma Wijewardene’s works have predominantly focused upon transformation, sustainability and climate emergency, alongside issues of diversity, inclusivity and coexistence. Her invaluable cultural knowledge depicted in her contemporary art throughout the years, and her advocacy for the environment are the principles upon which she navigated in selecting the finalists for the design competition. “It would be wonderful to see this competition encourage the commissioning of more public art in the city, by the government, municipality and also by the corporates. Hopefully more buildings will present art outside as well as inside their spaces. Art often uplifts and delights, as well as challenge the viewer, while it inspires contemplation and reflection,” Anoma Wijewardene stated, in conversation on the vision of Port City Colombo’s public commissions.

Architect Ruchi Jeyanathan’s experience of over 25 years in the industry brings in much knowledge and comprehension of the landscape and environment and the significance of public art while emphasizing the relationship between each component in facilitating the social and cultural aspects of cityscapes. “Human beings are naturally bound in a timeless relationship with both the land and the sea. Urban environments, more often than not, disrupt this relationship. So the works of art to be commissioned through this competition, could potentially challenge the observer to find new meaning and new ways of relating to the rapidly changing urban form and seafront – by engaging their minds and senses in new ways. People from different backgrounds and personal histories with the city of Colombo, will relate in their own individual and personal way with each sculpture, thereby finding unity and a shared resonance of the new urban fabric,” she said. Ruchi Jeyanathan said that the purpose of the competition becomes crucial in bridging the distance between its people and the city. The architect also stated that finding parts of themselves in works of art in public spaces, are ways that help a new city connect with the past. 

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14th October, 2020 Visual Art | Sculpture