Rudrani Devi Das is a talented artist, model and blogger of Sri Lankan/Norwegian descent, based in the picturesque countryside of Kandy with her father and teacher Rahju; one of the most celebrated artists of Sri Lanka.Rudrani’s attraction to the realm of fantasy is beautifully mirrored in her work, and upon our long awaited meeting at her modest yet charming countryside home, truly grasped her dedication in living her art- her distinctive personal style, classic beauty and assertiveness reflected in the strong, feminine characters of her paintings.
I’m delighted to share an exclusive interview alongside a collaborative photo series with Rudrani, opening a window to her fascinating life and finding out what she loves about her Sri Lankan motherland.
My new work will be a collaboration with my past, my projections for the future and how I want to navigate it, my writing, and my painting skills. It is the first time I have been so conceptual in my process prior to applying paint on canvas. I discuss the ideas with myself in my notebook until I have at least one or two, possibly more, concepts that feel half-baked enough to hand over to the painting.
I will usually compose a sketch, so that I know where the major symbolic elements go, but I always leave room for the paintings to have their say, now. I let them finish the idea for me, as without having gone through the experience, concepts are mere theory for me. Paintings have, through their ability to dig right into my depths, simulated life experiences and have definitely helped me prepare for things I never knew would happen! This is the first time so much writing has gone into the fine-tuning of the concepts, and the overall theme is one of observance and growth.
What have you learnt in your current gap year?
I once took the Proust Questionnaire and my answer for the third question (What do you consider your greatest achievement?) was “realizing that ambition and success were irrelevant”. This gap year has been a way of concreting that for myself, so that my next line of work will be less driven by any desperate need. I started my gap year with a three-month hiatus in Australia, and the rest of this year has been spent digesting those moments and writing about them in my blog posts, and also configuring the painting concepts in between.
I used to write for my own pleasure, as I am a bookworm and it was inevitable that I would try my own hand at it. Starting my blog was initially about forcing myself to be thorough about my drafts (I never finished anything I started, otherwise), as I knew I would have readers who would not want to waste their time. The main subject in my posts, generally speaking, is art. I love conversations on creativity, and wish I could have more of them in real life, but writing about my ideas and illuminating others on the artistic experience is a way for me to break those barriers of darkness that lie between our worlds.
A little bit of creativity in everyone’s life is essential, but most people are unable to comprehend the diversity of experiencing creativity, and become scared when they flounder in uncharted waters. I want to share the journey so that they know what to expect, or at least feel inspired to look deeper into it. I think my blog posts may have assisted me in discovering my current conceptual process, too; it made me see the artistic process as a whole picture by stepping back, as opposed to being involved in one corner or other at all times.
Why the interest in posing as a hobby?
I am a vegan model, so I tend to be picky about what I am modeling for and generally style myself these days, but I love posing in front of the camera, because, for once, I get to be in the picture I compose. It is a completely different feeling to self-portraiture, where being raw and honest about oneself is most important.
Here, I get to act or become something else, and I love being a diva! Modeling is also a collaboration between the photographer and the model, and as much as I love calculating the composition of my limbs, the negative spaces, the lighting, the backdrop, etc., it is also fun having someone else direct me and advice me on my poses. I am not alone in creating the final picture.
What do you love about Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is a land that epitomizes Mother Nature’s generosity. I love that our nature is luscious and vivid- we may have every shade of green imaginable. The varying terrain in this small island has so much to offer, from misty tea-estates, dry-zone forests, picturesque beaches, ancient ruins… I am also a lover of culture, so I am grateful that I come from a part of the world that has old roots. I always find a sense of spirit, here, and always feel like my soul is waking up from hibernation and stepping into spring every time I come back home.
How does your work inspire your life and vice versa?
With the work I hope to embark on, I am aiming to merge them, so that every moment is life lived creatively. Painters don’t stop painting just because they are away from their easels; we still think about, fine-tune, and consider our ideas in our minds, and even discuss elements with others.
Painting teaches me how to navigate life; it is comforting to know that I am never alone, that Creativity has my back. Everything in life inspires me, and will inevitably shape the image I set down on canvas. It is a cycle, really; I try to emulate the magic and beauty that I find in my work and, once manifested, those experiences will in turn find their way back onto my canvases.
What is your motto in life?
I do not have a specific one. I generally try to build an overall, positive attitude towards myself, instead of following a motto. I try to treat myself the way I would want someone else to treat me; with respect, love, and kindness. One thing I definitely do: I write myself letters to be opened on specific dates. I think I started this when I was seventeen, and wrote one for my twenty-first birthday. The next one is due to be opened in my twenty-fifth year (I wrote one for my exhibition opening night, too). It is fun answering questions from the past that ask how things are now.
I always give myself encouragement, too, and take small actions to manifest that positivity, like mentally running through all the things I completed in a day before going to bed. I think it is important to understand that no one else is obligated to solve your problems and make you happy; you have got to be your own source of happiness. You want a motto? Fine. Here it is…
“I love being Rudrani Devi Das!”