Tissa De Alwis

Working mostly with plasticine and terra-cotta his work has received notable attention locally and internationally for its enigmatic character. The passion for sculpting with plasticine started since Tissa’s childhood, through a past time hobby to a full time commitment of artistic endeavours. Showcased at many exhibitions over the years, Tissa’s work instantly reveal the artist’s unique ability of creating lifelike features that appear to be in motion which is also replenished with vigour.  

Tissa began sculpting at the early age of five, with plasticine. The first show he had was in 1963 at the College of Fine Arts which was the annual show of the year. “Tissa Ranasighne was the principal at the Heywood College of Visual Arts. At the time, I was seven years and resided in Galle with my family, as my mother used to teach in Galle. I vividly remember coming by train to Colombo, it was called the Ruhunu Kumari. My very first collection of works were figures made of plasticine; I used matchsticks as the stands so one can imagine the minute scale of each subject. I also used Christmas tree branches as pine trees in my collection of figures, to add character to the settings. My father place bricks and rocks to form an attractive background for my sculptures.

When the esteemed Tissa Ranasinghe came around to have a look at my exhibits at the gallery, he questioned my parents as to who made the sculptures, for which their reply was their seven year old son after which he gasped in disbelief. I was furious, naturally, so I instantly smashed one of the sculptures after witnessing the process right in front of his eyes in a very short period of time. When I met him many years after, we reminisced that impulsive encounter with much laughter.” A grandiose beginning led to Tissa’s journey to exploring a variety of issues and thoughts through creative expressions of plasticine. 

When speaking to us, Tissa explained that the key feature that contributed to the uniqueness of his work is his gift of illustrating movements. Many artists have the ability to create figures, however they are rather taut. Tissa on the other hand, creates sculptures that are seemingly moving although they are still figures. Tissa is ever so grateful to his mother for not sending him to an art school as he feels this is one of the techniques he was able to muster on his own as he wasn’t influenced by any artists. “Although the works of many students are distinct, one can notice the influence of the teachers in their outputs. Self-taught artists like myself are out of the mould.” This is what evidently makes Tissa’s work unique. Tissa is certain that all self-taught artists have only two essential requirements, one is material and the other is space. 

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16th April, 2021 Visual Art | Sculpture