Colombo-born artist Hashan Cooray's stark portraiture explores the undertones of human nature and figurative representation, capturing both despair and desire.Read More
Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Cooray worked as an art director in the advertising industry before completing a course in Fine Art at the Art Way Institute Nugegoda in 2008. Cooray exhibited for the first time in 2014 with the George Keyt Foundation as part of the Nawakalakaruwo exhibitions, one of the three annual events for emerging artists in Sri Lanka.
Hashan Cooray's detailed portraiture captures the complexity of the human psyche across a blend of charcoal and acrylic on canvas, resulting in crowded compositions that draw out themes of violence and desire through coiled lines, collaged texts, and cold colours.
In 2016, Cooray was invited to make work for Re-Imaging Ceylon, a book project by the Imago Mundi Collection.
The untitled 2016 portrait included in the book shows the face of an agreeable woman rendered from short strokes of powder blue and white, while drops of red fall across her forehead and lips.
The following year, Cooray held his first solo exhibition at Art Space Sri Lanka, Lab Rats (2017), which featured equally bright pastel works on paper responding to the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry as a reflection of individual subordination to social norms.
Cooray's second solo show and first exhibition with Saskia Fernando, Parahumans (2019), traced the evolution of mankind to ask if we have remained the same as our ape ancestors or whether we are part of the dawning of a new species, beyond homo sapiens.
Here, explosive figurative portraits blending thin acrylic lines with smeared charcoal capture the beauty of mankind in all its brutishness, deceit, and violence. Inscribed with indistinct words and alphabet letters, mixed-media series like 'Masochist Poem' (2019) sought to write 'a new chapter in the book of evolution'.
Accordingly, in Masochist Poem V (2019), the outline of a face intersects with explosive yellow bouquets as the figure looks over in confrontation, as if to challenge existing interpretations, while a crimson square inscribed with text over his right eye remains unreadable.
With increasing self-awareness, later works cleverly allude to the nuances of representation, be it a thought, an emotion, or a figure, by juxtaposing the initial image with what could be its echo. In MY EMPTY HANDS AND MIND II (2019), a diptych shows gestural scribbles on the left that are repeated on the right within a contained cube, while Untitled 06 (2021) features the face of a man rendered in red against green above an icon of smaller head on brown paper, referring to the artist's many brown paper charcoal portraits.
Hashan Cooray has featured in both solo and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include Saskia Fernando, Colombo (2022, 2020, 2019, 2017).
Group exhibitions include Lionel Wendt Gallery, Colombo (2019); Sapumal Foundation, Colombo (2018); Saskia Fernando Gallery, Colombo (2018); JDA Perera Gallery, Colombo (2018, 2017, 2015, 2014).
The artist's Instagram can be found here.
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022