WHAT'S BEHIND A MASK
Roshan de Selfa
The word ‘illustration’, a late Middle English origin from ‘illumination’ meaning spiritual or intellectual enlightenment, derives from Latin, ‘illustratio’ – to enlighten. Illustration is an art form that is created by the artist with the intention to enlighten a viewer on their vision and their thoughts. For Daily ARTRA’s Artist of the Week, we discovered Roshan de Selfa, his social alias, ‘Line Demon’. What caught our attention most was his intriguing illustrations of traditional Sri Lankan demon masks. These masks were often used in ceremonies, a form of worship or in exorcism rituals to cure illnesses. Roshan discusses his take on these masks and his unique illustrations.
Q: How does one get into the field of this particular art form, ‘illustration’?
A: I moved into the field of illustration and concept art as a profession from a childhood spent doodling and sketching things that caught my interest. As an illustrator and concept artist I have the opportunity to frequently explore design across a wide variety of subjects. Being a young artist with small following on a platform open to the world is a great way to communicate complex topics. Illustration is an enjoyable pastime for me with the added benefit of an audience that may enjoy the product and also provide valuable feedback.
Q: Some artists create with purpose of providing meaning, others to find meaning themselves. How do you use your platform? What do you convey through your artwork?
A: Social media platforms like Instagram offer artists an opportunity to connect directly with a large audience. My illustrations displayed on Instagram are an attempt at directing people’s attention to contradictory notions in culture and aesthetics and bringing them together in an interesting and oftentimes satirical manner. Scattered among these works are highly stylized illustrations of a more playful nature depicting characters and icons of popular culture in vivid colour.
Q: We noticed an interesting pattern in your works of art, particularly the traditional Sri Lankan masks. Could you elaborate on this choice?
A: The series of works that focus on Sri Lankan devil masks throw a powerful traditional icon into the light of a more modern context. The illustrations are aimed at discussing the place traditions, culture, and the artistic styles born of them, have in a world of technology and convenience. A satirical or humorous tone helps get an idea across better as it opens up debate and comments faster. They are also crucial to challenging antiquated idealism or nationalist views by speaking directly to a generation observing, and engaged with, a fast-changing world through social media platforms.
Q: How did you come about the Sri Lankan devil masks and what inspired you to use this as the focus of your artwork?
A: The devil masks are objects with a rich history in the island’s pagan rituals and endemic narratives; they hold a mythical status while being tangible and tie in strongly with early concepts of good and evil, or deities offering protection and fortune. This has been carried forward through generations resulting in a diluted concept of the island’s cultural aesthetic and perhaps even identity. These masks have become ingrained in the social mind as a traditional image that can be used to open an easy portal to a mass market on the international stage. They have become a popular ornament and a declaration of national pride.
Roshan de Selfa’s works of art open up a dimension of thought towards Sri Lankan tradition and proceed to provoke the audience to question cultural and social norms. His illustrations are those of sense and meaning.
ARTRA is Sri Lanka’s Art Magazine exploring curated content on Sri Lanka’s visual art, performance art, applied art and written art. Launched in 2012, ARTRA Magazine is a compact monthly art read providing a comprehensive understanding on Sri Lankan artists, art events, monthly art calendars and the Sri Lankan design landscape. In sum, all you need to know about art in Sri Lanka.