Since 1964


by Varunika Ruwanpura

Roots are the unseen foundation of trees.
Trees give life to the world.
The natural world is connected to us and we are connected to it.
We are living breathing beings.
Trees give us oxygen.
Without trees, we would die.
Roots give life to the tree.
We are all entwined in this cycle of life.
Respect it.

Preethi Hapuwatte is an abstract artist who has drawn and painted since childhood. She loves working with bright colours, geometric forms and rich textures. She comes from a family of artists and this is her 10th solo exhibition at the Gallery 706. She has worked as a designer for Barefoot Ceylon since the age of 17 apart from some years spent living overseas. She began her career as an apprentice under the tutelage of renowned Sri Lankan artist and Barefoot founder, Barbara Sansoni and now works as one of company’s lead designers. It is only natural that Preethi chooses to exhibit at Gallery 706 given her long association with Barefoot. Her work as a designer inspires her art and vice versa.

Her latest exhibition, Unseen, comprises of mostly oils on canvas and a few acrylics on canvas. The canvases are painted in vivid hues offset by stark outlines and shapes in black and white. The contrast of colour and texture has the effect of creating a sense of depth and movement in the paintings, especially when viewed from a distance. Images of trees are everywhere in the Unseen collection but tree roots are the exhibition’s key focus. “I enjoy looking at trees and roots,” Preethi says. “Trees stay on this earth for many years. If only they could talk to us we will know many interesting things from the past.”

Preethi’s paintings have always focused on depicting the natural world using abstract lines and shapes: “I see things in lines and dots and graphic form,” she says. So, this exhibition continues her depiction and celebration of nature through abstract art. Her 2019 exhibition’s theme of tree roots signifies the importance of roots to the grounding of a tree. Without roots a tree cannot stand. Preethi is using this analogy to reflect on people’s lives as well. Without your roots or grounding whether they be, for example, your family, friends or work, you cannot stand up. Hers is an artistic interpretation of this concept using the simple image of tree roots. As the she notes, tree roots are also tangled. For Preethi, the tangle of roots signifies connections between human life and the natural world. The artist invites you to enjoy her paintings and reflect on these themes as you view the work.

Barefoot Gallery serves as a platform for artists, musicians, poets, and filmmakers

The Colombo Gallery was begun by Barbara Sansoni in 1967 and had its home in Anderson Road in a building designed by Ulrik Plesner. The Colombo Gallery became Gallery 706 and that became the BAREFOOT GALLERY in the mid-nineties, which serves as a platform for artists, musicians, poets, and filmmakers in Colombo.