After The Rains is a painting that depicts my current experience of growing pains and a reflection on the past two years of perspective shifts. The idea came to me after an unusually rainy period in Los Angeles, after which plants of every kind started sprouting up in my sloping and semi-wild neighborhood. They took over hillsides and as I was weeding my own garden, I felt it was a direct metaphor to what was going on in my life. Over the past two years, I’ve been reckoning with the things that needed to be eliminated from my life including many fears that were holding me back.
The two figures in the painting represent aspects of how I see myself. On the right is a mundane version, wearing sweatpants but not doing anything athletic, with uprooted dead plants in hand. On the left is a figure that represents a Yakka (devil) version of me. These Yakkas are Sri Lankan characters originating from folk religions dating back to pre-Buddhist times on the island. I started introducing them into my paintings as a way to connect with a healing ritual called Thovil (exorcism) which was practiced by my ancestors, but which feels as distant as possible from my actual life today. Over the past year, I’ve read every book I could find on the practice. Thovil is increasingly rare today, but I’m less interested in nostalgia for the past, and more interested in why it was carried out. Thovil is a comedic and somber event at the same time, and Yakkas can be seen as devils, and in ancient times, as a kind of lower deity as well. I found these contradictions to be relatable, so I usually cast them in scenes from my memories, but in After the Rains, they appear directly across from my own present day image as an apparition. It’s an attempt to face and question every aspect of myself, especially the negative ones. As a nod to the comedic aspect of Thovil, I make fun of the culture that dominates the world today and certainly my own mind, through carefully painted trash strewn across the painting. This is intended to bring the painting out of the “exotic” realm, and keep it grounded in reality, but it also represents my own awareness that adulthood brings with it an accumulation of mental garbage. Shedding this baggage is a slow process which is both painful and in some ways beautiful, and that’s the feeling and complexity I am aiming to capture in this painting.