Port City Design Competition, Anoma Wijewardene

Art inspires and uplifts, and in big cities with concrete buildings and urban living, art influences. Port City, along with ARTRA as Official Partner commences its first Design Competition and opens doors to artists around the island for an opportunity to showcase their perspective and their vision into new cities and cityscapes. Anoma Wijewardene takes her place as an official judge on the panel of esteemed intellectuals to choose the winning sculpture for Port City’s Design Competition. What should art do in new cities and how can artists influence urbanscapes? We explore the dimensions and criteria of this competition and how its influence to this new city will enlighten and uplift the lives of individuals. From the capacity to impact that art carries to its ability to portray an artist’s envisioning of new cities and their stance to stimulate, this design competition will bring new concepts and perceptions to be inspired by.

In 2019, Anoma Wijewardene became the first solo artist from Sri Lanka to showcase during the esteemed and renowned Venice Biennale. She exhibited in London the climate emergency exhibition, just ahead of the December 2019 UN climate change conference in Madrid. She also launched her monograph of 250 pages in both London and Colombo. Anoma exhibited at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2016 and has shown worldwide since 2002 including Sydney, New Delhi, Singapore, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and London. An alumna of Central Saint Martins, University of Arts, London, her mediums range from oils, mixed media, sculpture, olfactory art, video and iPad to complex installations. Anoma’s work has focused on transformation, sustainability and climate emergency, alongside issues of diversity, inclusivity and coexistence; accepting the stewardship we share of each other and our fractured and fragile planet. In conversation with Anoma, we discuss the beginning of new cities, the design competition’s criterion for artists and how she thinks a work of art should influence.

Q | What do you think of Port City’s envisioning of these urbanscapes and the gateways that this design competition will open for artists?

This is a wonderful opportunity for our artists to be a vital and forceful presence at a defining moment for Colombo’s port city. The input from artists will add much needed solace, poetry and soul to the urban life of the city. The creative space and visual delight and comfort is as essential to man as are roads, buildings, transport and food. Since the beginning of time man has not survived on bread alone and Man needs art poetry and music. His soul needs it, and the artist must lead the way.

Q | What were your thoughts on being asked to judge this design competition, especially as an artist yourself, and with the impact and influence each work of art would bring?

I am honoured and delighted to be involved and think it essential that the works bring joy and serenity, wonder and awe. It needs to arrest one through the senses and heart, and also engage on the intellectual plane.

“I am looking for the wow factor and an innovative and exciting response to the brief. It could be challenging or pleasing, but it is vital to have both immediate and long term impact.” - Anoma Wijewardene


1. The Wow Factor – What do you think you can bring to the table that sets you apart from the rest? Let your art take on your perspective boldly and let it define what you perceive.

2. An Innovative Response – Whether it’s conventional or contemporary, create with dynamism

3. The Impact It Creates – In new cities and urban landscapes, think about the message you want to convey to your audience, how do you choose to influence through your art?


Q | In your experience and career, what do you think the biggest challenge artists are facing today and how do you think this opportunity will help emerging artists?  

There are so many challenges we face.  Art to be recognized as essential to society.  Art to be remunerated fairly. Women artists have historically been neglected globally, and that challenge needs to be addressed here too. Art needs more media attention, position and value. Contemporary art needs to be seen and embraced as being vital to our culture as is our ancient art and culture. Culture is now.

Q | As an artist, how do you feel Port City's design competition and its concept with public art in cityscapes will mould artists and expand their perspectives? What kind of impact and influence will it have?

It is possible that more artists will be engaged by the idea of creating large and public art, and will look at the environmental positioning of their art. It may well help them consider spaces for art within nature and outdoors. It would be wonderful to see it encourage the commissioning of more public art in the city, by both the government and the municipality and also by corporates. Hopefully more corporate buildings will present art outside as well as inside their buildings. Art often uplifts and delights, as well as challenges the viewer, while it inspires contemplation and reflection.  Ideally public art seen and enjoyed by the passerby, outside of the elite gallery space, will encourage a wider appreciation of and respect for art, and all it offers mankind.

Q | What advice do you have for the artists? 

Don’t think about being successful and achieving fame or fortune, but think about being creative and loving the physical passionate journey of art making. The joy in the actual process is the real reward of a creative life. 

Public art is a concept with an ability to exist in a large space and collectively influence cityscapes as one. Its dynamic medium and intriguing modus operandi is an alternate canvas that resounds across not only a space but throughout generations as it becomes a monument in a bustling world. Anoma Wijewardene explores, in conversation, its vision to influence and the artists who choose how to impact. We comprehend, in her perspective the potential that the characteristics and power that a work of art would behold and the way it will descend into the future of urbanscapes. As an artist herself, we believe Anoma’s vision for the winning artist will be one that will raise the bar and impact the now and the future.

9th September, 2020 Visual Art | Conceptual