The Portraiture of Kos Cos

“My childhood was fun and colourful. I grew up in Mt Lavinia, the largest suburb of Colombo, which runs along the southern coast, so most weekends I would go to the beach with my friends to play cricket and beach rugby. On weekdays after school, I would go to my father’s advertising agency where they created all the hand-painted billboards and shop signs. That was my first art school. I’d sit and watch people drawing while I was waiting for my father. If he wasn’t around, the artists would ask me to fill the backgrounds for them and I did that extremely happily.”

“My mind is full of faces that I’d like to paint and so I’m constantly looking out for these imaginary faces in real life”

“I guess I was always good at art. It’s in our family; my father and my brother also draw well, we are definitely carrying our father’s genes. Even my mother hand- stitches wall hangers as her hobby. My father didn’t really encourage us to be in his field, although when I was eleven, he did send me to a friend who was a prominent political cartoonist to learn how to draw cartoons and couldn’t say no to a friend.”

“I’ve always been drawn more to portraits than any other type of painting. The human face is very complex and changes constantly with moods, but as an artist I like to challenge myself. When we first meet someone, we look at their face to read their emotions and understand their personality. I thought portrait and figure drawing had become a dying art with the development of photography. Luckily for me, portraiture is re-emerging as a new trend in the art world.”

“I tend to start each portrait with very sketchy and patchy strokes to get the essential features of the subject, and then I use large colour brush strokes to add movement and energy, so that the whole piece becomes more engaging with the viewer. This is the result of years and years of experimenting. I was only finally happy with my style and started to exhibit my work in public three years ago.”

“I didn’t plan to move to Hong Kong; the opportunity came completely out of the blue. One day I received a call from one of my best friends who used to work at the same advertising agency as me in Sri Lanka, but had moved to Hong Kong in 1996. He asked me if I’d like to come and work in Hong Kong, I said yes and told my parents that I was going away for two years. Here I am 17 years later!”

“My inspiration is hard to describe because there’s no practical process and there needs to be an external catalyst. My mind is full of faces that I’d like to paint and so I’m constantly looking out for these imaginary faces in real life, because I need real people to add soul to my work. Once I see someone (usually just on the street, in a bar or at a party) it’s pretty straightforward. I ask them if they’ll sit for a portrait. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don’t; so it’s very hit and miss. In this way I guess fate plays a significant hand in who I paint.”

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