Sri Lanka is a mix of ethnic groups with a history of immigration, trade, and colonial invasion. Although Sinhalese Buddhists dominate the country. Sri Lanka has a  multicultural society that includes Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamils of recent Indian origin, Muslims, semi-tribal Väddas, and Burghers, who are the descendants of Sri Lankan-European intermarriages. It is not surprising that this country has a high level of activity, including cultural and festive events.

Sri Lankan art is a stunning and diverse representation of the country's rich cultural heritage. Sri Lanka's artistic traditions are shaped by a unique blend of local and foreign influences, including Indian, Southeast Asian, and European art styles. The country's artistic traditions reflect its multicultural identity and are often passed down through generations.

Buddhism is a major influence on Sri Lankan art, and it has helped shape the country's artistic traditions. Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE and has since become an integral part of their culture. This influence can be seen in many aspects of Sri Lankan art, such as paintings, sculptures, and architecture.

Sri Lankan art culture is also significant for promoting cultural dialogue and understanding. In a country marked by ethnic diversity and historical tensions, art acts as a bridge, connecting disparate communities and providing a forum for shared experiences and expression.

Sri Lankan artists are well-known for their distinct and diverse artistic expressions, which frequently reflect the country's rich cultural heritage and history. Sri Lanka's art scene includes a variety of styles and mediums, such as painting, sculpture, pottery, textile arts, and more.

The Influence of Culture on Sri Lankan Artists

Sri Lankan culture, defined by its ethnic diversity, religious influences, and colonial past, offers a fertile ground for artistic expression and inspiration.

Multiculturalism: Sri Lanka is a melting pot of cultures, primarily Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, and Burgher, each with their own traditions and aesthetic sensibilities for the arts. This diversity is reflected in the variety of themes, styles, and symbols employed by Sri Lankan artists. Furthermore, the island's major religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity—provide a wealth of mythological and spiritual motifs that artists incorporate into their work.

Historical and Colonial Influences: Sri Lanka's complex history, which includes centuries of colonial rule by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, has left an indelible imprint on its art. This influence is visible in the combination of European techniques and traditional Sri Lankan styles. Many Sri Lankan artists' works explore common themes such as historical events, struggles for independence, and postcolonial identity crises.

Landscape and Wildlife: The lush landscapes, tropical wildlife, and the island's distinctive geographical features all have an impact on Sri Lankan art. Artists frequently draw inspiration from the natural beauty of their surroundings, resulting in works that honour the island's flora and fauna or address environmental issues.

Socio-political Context: In recent decades, many artists' work has focused on the impact of Sri Lanka's civil war. The aftermath of the war, as well as issues of displacement, human rights, and peace, are critically examined through various art forms. This is consistent with a broader trend in Sri Lankan art to address social and political issues, using art as a tool for commentary, resistance, and healing.

Globalisation and Digital Influences: Sri Lankan artists today are heavily influenced by global art trends and digital technology. Exposure to international art via the Internet, exhibitions, and artist exchanges has inspired local artists to experiment with new mediums and techniques, resulting in a more diverse and modern art scene.

Emerging Artists from Sri Lanka

Given Sri Lanka's complex history, which includes a civil war and a post-war period, artists frequently address political and social issues in their work, providing critical perspectives on conflict, peace, and reconciliation. Artists such as Chandraguptha Thenuwara, Anoma Wijewardene, Jagath Weerasinghe, and Prageeth Manohansa are prominent figures in the contemporary scene, each bringing their own perspectives and styles to light.

Contemporary Sri Lankan artwork not only sheds light on the country's changing cultural identity but also makes an important contribution to the global art narrative by highlighting its artists' distinct perspectives and talents. While new age Sri Lankan artists are actively redefining the contemporary art scene in Sri Lanka by incorporating modern themes, techniques, and perspectives. They frequently address current social, political, and environmental issues in their work, using a variety of mediums.

Here are some prominent contemporary Sri Lankan artists:

Chandraguptha Thenuwara - Known for his politically charged work, Thenuwara's art often comments on the effects of war and conflict in Sri Lanka. He is also recognized for his 'barrelism' art style, which depicts barrels as a symbol of war and oppression.

Muvindu Binoy - A young artist who combines digital and traditional techniques. His work is notable for its commentary on contemporary culture, frequently focusing on the impact of technology and media.

Prageeth Manohansa - Specializing in sculpture, Manohansa uses found materials, especially scrap metal, to create his works. His sculptures frequently feature animals and human figures, conveying themes of life, movement, and transformation.

Koralegedara Pushpakumara - Pushpakumara's work often addresses themes of violence, power, and personal memories. He works with a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, and installation.

Anoli Perera - Perera is a multidisciplinary artist whose work includes installations, sculptures, and photographs. Her work explores themes such as memory, history, and identity, frequently reflecting on women's experiences in society.

Sri Lankan Art Exhibitions

Contemporary artists in Sri Lanka have numerous exhibition opportunities. The Saskia Fernando Gallery and Art Space Sri Lanka are two prominent art platforms in the country. The artists represented by Art Space Sri Lanka can sell their work online to the rest of the world and receive extensive coverage. The Saskia Fernando Gallery, the largest art gallery in Colombo, is constantly hosting contemporary artist shows. Sri Lanka hosts a number of art exhibitions that highlight the diverse talent and creativity of its artists. These exhibitions range from local gallery shows to international art fairs and include both traditional and contemporary works.

Some of the notable art exhibitions and events in Sri Lanka are:

Colombo Art Biennale (CAB): As Sri Lanka's first and largest international contemporary art festival, the Colombo Art Biennale draws artists from all over the world. It houses a diverse collection of artworks, including installations, paintings, performances, and workshops.

Kala Pola: Kala Pola, a vibrant and colourful open-air art fair held annually in Colombo, features artists from all over the country displaying and selling their work. It's an excellent opportunity to view Sri Lankan art in a lively and informal setting.

Saskia Fernando Gallery: It is one of Colombo's leading contemporary art galleries, with regular exhibitions featuring the works of well-known Sri Lankan and international artists.

Paradise Road Galleries: Another well-known gallery in Colombo, Paradise Road Galleries frequently holds exhibitions showcasing a mix of established and emerging Sri Lankan artists.

JDA Perera Gallery: This gallery, located in Colombo, is part of the University of the Visual & Performing Arts and frequently hosts exhibitions by students and faculty, providing a glimpse into Sri Lankan art's future.

National Art Gallery: Located in Colombo, this gallery hosts various exhibitions throughout the year, featuring both historical and contemporary Sri Lankan art.

Art Walks and Street Art Festivals: In recent years, there have been initiatives to bring art into public spaces in Sri Lanka, such as street art festivals and art walks in different cities.

These exhibitions are important not only for promoting and recognising Sri Lankan artists but also for encouraging cultural exchange and dialogue. They provide visitors with opportunities to engage with Sri Lanka's rich artistic heritage and contemporary creativity.


To summarise, Sri Lankan artists are heavily influenced by their cultural heritage, which offers a diverse range of themes and motifs. This cultural backdrop, combined with the artists' personal experiences and the sociopolitical context of their time, shapes Sri Lankan art's distinct and diverse landscape.