Port City Colombo 'Dream' Sculpture Design Competition Finalists

While homes are a significant space of existence for people as individuals, cities are important to societies; a city is a place where whole groups of people subsist, and in its symbiotism, a city is a space where culture influences and is reflected and history is made – but how does a crowd of buildings symbolize what a city stands for? Public art has been a monument of navigation, similar to the North Star in its purpose to guide, a wayfinder that steers populaces to understand the culture of the city’s society and their perspectives, built by the people themselves. Art becomes the bridge between people and their environment, drawing connections and understanding where they come from, where they’re to go. With the burgeoning urbanscape that is Port City, Port City Colombo’s Design Competition in partnership with ARTRA treads purposefully onward in its aim to connect the society with their roots through art, while influencing their lives and living to uplift and inspire through artistic stimulation.

Port City Colombo’s ‘Dream’ Sculpture Design Competition opened doors for submission on the 29th of July, 2020. The concept of the competition comprised the feelings and expressions of freedom, belonging in an advancing world. Artists from all over the island were invited to submit their perspective of this concept to build a sculpture that encompassed a true Sri Lankan spirit and culture to exist in an evolving space. The competition closed submissions on the 25th of August, 2020 and esteemed judges, Artist Anoma Wijewardena, Architect Ruchi Jeyanathan, Designer and Lecturer Shilanthi Abeygunawardana and Associate Director, Landscape Designer Xia Yuan chose through a meticulous criterion three finalists whose names were revealed on the 9th of September, 2020. The top 3 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.                                                                   

Q | What is your stance on the vision of the design competition and the role of art in urbanscapes?

Rochelle | It is always good to have an open competition for sculpture, art or architecture to seek new ideas from famous as well as novel artists. It’s an opportunity for all and the end outcome could be surprising and fascinating. In regard to the role of art in urbanscapes, it’s nothing new across the Europe and that has been always evident throughout. As always art in urbanscapes will provide excitement, focus, enhance, direction, landmark or beautify if not identify an era, activity or future ahead.

Lakal | The competition is a great initiative to explore what Art & Design students are capable of when it comes to designing, planning, structuring and actual realization. This allows people to see what design students have to offer to the society and actual realization of a student project is the best thing a student can get. Public art has the ability to change the way we see things. It can modify and offer us a new way to experience the space it participates. Art in urbanscapes can provoke thoughts and creativity of people.

Pulasthi, Tharindu, & Viranga | Art plays a vital role in every person’s day to day lives, although it may not be felt directly, it is essential to man, as it adds depth and beauty to the daily lives. Art gives a depth a beauty to the currently monotonous urbanscapes that are there and the artist should be able to deliver this sense of poetic engagement to its viewers. The design competition is a good opportunity for artists to showcase their works to the public, being able to communication to its audience and convey a message.

Pulasthi Handunge, Tharindu Perera, & Viranga Waduge, Lodiya

Q | Can you share your concept of your sculpture and the creative process behind it?

Rochelle | Dreams are somewhat similar to an x ray of your body towards your inner self thus nothing to do with some magical premonition. It has nothing to do with any faith or belief in my opinion. On stairs you can climb or descend is the pulse of the inner movement, as the dream tells. However according to Carl Gustav Jung, one of fathers of psychoanalysis, the stairs represented a moment of change in life, of ascent or even of descent, depending on the direction headed. The main target is to leave a lasting emotional memory to whoever explore the sculpture. This is not just a sculpture but it’s an experience. It’s like a journey, the journey of a dream.

Lakal | ‘Youvebeenschooled’ consist of hundreds of multicolored fluid forms that appears to be a school of fish which swims around the viewers who’d partake in the sculpture. Punning on the term ‘Schooling’ which is the action of a group of fish swimming in the same direction in a coordinated manner and also the action of someone being educated and being aware of. Six years ago, before the land reclamation this beach was also a part of the sea where fish lived and swam around this exact place without a care in the world. Irrespective of the transformation, they still swim cheerily in someplace new. The sculpture commemorates that event and works as an Intersection between past and present while offering gentle reminders and simple propagandas about what really matters. ‘Youvebeenschooled’ returns the neglected fascination to its rightful place, highlighting what’s genuinely worth appreciating in life. This installation reminds us to ‘Just keep swimming’ because the only way out of most things is through them. This installation might be light-hearted from appearance but the experience might reveal a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals.

Pulasthi, Tharindu, & Viranga | The sculpture is based on the concept of “change is the only constant in life”, as told by Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher. Whether it may be slow, giving a false impression of no change, or change on a daily basis. The best example of this change can be traced back in history to the time when King Vijaya landed to Sri Lanka near Mahathitha (Mannar). Although there was a civilization prior to King Vijaya’s landing, the lifestyle that was brought about after the landing of King Vijaya was different and hence an inertia within people was brought out, however with time, it got integrated into the Sri Lankan culture. Similarly, the objective of the sculpture is to link the past, present and the future creating a dream like experience, ever changing and with the ability to be interpreted differently based on the viewer.

Rochelle Fernando, Between Architecture and Dream

Q | Share with us the significant design elements that make up your sculpture and what they mean in contributing to cityscapes and the concept of 'Dream'.

Rochelle | In this design the stairs that go up take you from physical to psychological and then to a spiritual dimension and the final flight of stairs designs your imagination or inner self ,giving the feeling of continuation that there is beyond, beyond and beyond. The descent gives you the feeling of entering in yourself deeply. Materials used are clear glass, one way mirror glass and granite. Stairs are made out of glasses and some in granite in order to give the feeling of floating in the air.

Lakal | This sculpture allows the viewers to become the sculpture rather than having a detached, emotionally controlled relationship to art. Through Youvebeenschooled the younger Sri Lankan generations would experience and involve in a different form of art rather than the conventional art forms which would set a bar for them to start exploring further more from here onwards. The dream-like experience of the installation let the viewers to escape from the dull obviousness of real life for a moment and our bodies will be flooded with lit-up colorful reflections making us invisible within the sculpture.

Pulasthi, Tharindu, & Viranga |With respect to the history of King Vijaya and to signify the first recorded change in this nation, the material choice of copper is to be used as the primary material for the sculpture. Making it a monolithic sculpture. The “Lodiya” sculpture is subjected to change on a daily basis as well as over time. When considering it on a daily basis, the sculpture changes its movements depending on the movement of the wind, making it a kinetic stabile sculpture. However, when considering over time, the change that is to be achieved is the discoloration of the sculpture through the formation of patina, a blue-green layer formed on the surface of copper. This is an interpretation of aging over time, eventually blending in with the environment. Moreover, a key element within the sculpture, the silver orb hanging at the centre of the sculpture, maintains balance so as to keep the sculpture from falling apart. Whilst majority of the sculpture changes with time, this would help to create a link that would connect the past to the present in 2040. This link would help to create a feeling of nostalgia to its viewer.

Lakal Piyarathna

Each concept and aim proposed by the finalists, we found, understood the objective of the competition and addressed it skilfully while creatively comprehending the nuances of influencing new cities and urbanscapes through art and artistic stimulation. As we conversed with each finalist and deliberated the scope of art imparting onto cityscapes and inspiring and uplifting society, the artists expressed the importance of public art and what it means to be part of something revolutionizing. The finalists divulged into their concepts where we explore the potential future narrative of Port City and their perspective, a monument that will exist and reflect the culture of Sri Lanka for generations to come. Port City Colombo, in partnership with ARTRA walks forward in this endeavour to influence and uplift the society and people of the city through art and perceiving it through their own eyes.



19th October, 2020 Visual Art | Conceptual