Seeing the world in colour


“Colour! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.”

— Paul Gauguin

We see the world in colours and shapes. While seeing the world in colours, some built a special bond with colours. They understand the language of colour. The language of colour is a different and a unique language and those who understand and communicate through this language, are artists. Artists who can express what they see, visualise, and feel through colours and shapes are gifted people. Not everyone is blessed with this gift.

Those who communicate through colours recreate their mind’s vision on paper or on canvas with paint. These artists add more colour to humanity and leave a legacy boundless by time. Even centuries after their demise, they are still alive in our minds through their work. From the very first unknown artist of human history to the most recent known artists of our times, these wonderful people have coloured our lives and our culture, and have added meaning to society.

A great painter of our times

One such gifted and great painter of our times, Royden Gibbs, who expresses in colours and shapes, is someone who creates magic on paper. His delicate and perfect brushstrokes capture the beauty of a fleeting moment and grasp it in time as a forever memory. Hundreds of such wonderful memories are stored in his little beautiful abode at Polhengoda. It is truly an artist’s abode, covered with lush greenery, loaded with overgrown trees, and a little safe sanctuary to birds, reptiles, and fish.

Gibbs, paints and teaches here, where his students would come and spend hours, learning the craft from this gifted painter. He has been teaching for 25 long years.

He realised his passion and talent for arts as a child. As a student at St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya, and as a bright student of the well-known Sri Lankan painter Mudliyar A.C.G.S. Amarasekara, young Gibbs has won many acclaimed awards and prizes for art.

Starting his journey as an artist at a very early age, he has travelled within the island, exploring the beauty of this little paradise’s culture and nature. He has captured the magical charm of Sri Lanka’s culture and heritage through his gifted hand, recreating them on paper and canvas with watercolours, pen, pencil, or pastels. His undying love for history, archaeology, and nature gave birth to a large number of wonderful memories on paper that lies inside his abode.

Working in the advertising sector for years, he has also travelled extensively in order to explore art. His overseas travels, especially to India and Australia has given birth to a large number of fascinating work of art.

A talented ‘light capturer’

“Light is a thing that cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else – by colour.”

  — Paul Cezanne

Gibbs in his coloured paintings as well as in his monochrome drawings captures light as a master. It is not easy to capture the mystical beauty of light in the artwork. Light is the source that gives the hue and tone of the colours around us. Light enhances colour and light defines shapes around us. Therefore, capturing light on paper is a technique one must master. Gibbs does it in a fascinating way.

One can get lost in thoughts while closely observing how he has captured this mystic nature of light in his paintings and drawings. His collection of lighthouses, old forts, old monuments in India, and ancient temples in Sri Lanka are the finest examples of this.

A maestro of colour

The other striking beauty of Gibbs’s paintings is the way he uses colours. Most of his paintings, give happy, relaxing vibes. They make you wonder in a paradise of colours. Hues of warm yellows, cool greens, and warm blues dominate his colour palette.  The warm bright use of a handsome Siena also dominates his paintings of ancient ruins. He has perfectly captured how the sun is creating designs on the old bright brick walls at ancient sites such as Nagarjunkonda in Andra Pradesh and the Watadage at Polonnaruwa.

Mogul architecture has awed the world with its exquisite beauty and charm. It has charmed Gibbs during his travels to India. Through beautiful delicate brushstrokes and fine detailing, he has perfectly captured the elegant carvings and architectural design of the Tomb of Hayat Baksh Begum and The Charminar at Hyderabad.

Painting stories

Gibbs not only paints or draws monuments or landscapes or people. He paints stories. His colours and shapes are his language. Each and every painting and drawing of his has a story to tell. Some of the stories behind these art works are fascinating, while some are sad, and some are enlightening.

His paintings and drawings of historic sites, narrate history.

Paintings and drawings of animals and nature, tell us the preciousness of these beasts and the need to protect them. Through his brushstrokes, ink and pencil lines, and pastel patches, he reminds us of the urgent need to protect Sri Lanka’s cultural and natural heritage. He has painted tribal people in exotic lands and reminds us that these vanishing cultures should be subjected to conservation.

The painting of the Golkonda fort has a sad story that the artist shared. While painting this, he has witnessed two people on a bike dragging along a poor and helpless dog tied to the bike with a rope, while the poor creature was lamenting in agony and fear. Similarly, the story of the Golkonda Fort is also greatly dark and tragic.

Royden Gibbs, a painter who has coloured the Sri Lankan society and culture for decades, now shares the art that he has mastered with students at his abode, surrounded by nature. He plans his next art exhibition that will be held in Colombo soon, as soon as the current situation in Sri Lanka turns out to be calm. We wish him all the very best.

“Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of colour to express myself more forcefully…”

— Vincent Van Gogh

(Pix by Ashan Gamage)

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy