Visual art teacher Divani Srimali Gedara is making a splash on the international art scene with her stunning sand sculptures. Representing her home country of Sri Lanka, Divani has been racking up the medals since 2013 – and most recently won first place, by public vote, in the virtually-held III Encuentro Nacional De Escultores En Arena 2021, Peru. Here, she shares how she turns shores into sculpture.
How did you get involved in sand art?
I have always been passionate about art since childhood. I never gave it a second thought when it came to choosing a discipline to study at university. I chose to specialise in sculpturing during my Bachelor of Art and pursued the same in my Visual Art Master’s.
For my Master’s, I worked with wooden and stone media, but later focused on sand art during my internship programme. Working and experimenting with different media has given me inner peace. As I mentioned earlier, wood carving and stone carving skills are still very much of use on the sand bed.
What appeals to you about using sand?
Being an earthy person and very close to nature, I create vivid forms with sand. Sand in its suppleness, delicacy and strength resonates with me. The willingness of sand to be transformed in form and texture, and the liberty it gives in contrasting the depiction of the smooth and coarse, makes it a perfect medium for exploring the iconic meaning of realism.
When did you realise you were good enough to compete?
I am quite a goal-oriented person. I can go miles, as far as my passion can take me. I think that I have always been ready to compete; however, the 1st Competitive sand sculpture I made was in 2013 during Konark international sand art festival. I received very positive feedback on the spot. This affirmed my exceptional level of resilience and perseverance.
How do you feel about your work washing away over time?
While the grains of sand do not disappear, the sculptures eventually slip away and only a documented evidence remains engraved in our minds. For me, compacting sand grains loosens my chains of frustration, and brings in the strong virtue of patience and calmness, which binds me to my passion and inspires me to create huge art forms associated with the place and times we live in.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature itself inspires me. It has in its breadth and width engrossed me. The fragrance of the beach, splashing of the waves, and energy of sunrays stimulate my senses to capture moments associated with our present environment.
How do you bring your love for nature and sand sculpture into the classroom?
As an artist and a visual art teacher, I believe in constant learning and evolution. I endeavour to grow as a versatile artist through experimenting with various media and forms. This belief leads me to actively seek new experiences through art workshops/symposia and residencies. I am developing young sculptors by coaching and mentoring them during Remote Activities for Curriculum Enrichment (RACE) and the previous ACE programme (Primary Art and Craft Club). I also conducted sand art workshops for the kindergarten students during the Terra Vista Inter School Art Competitions in 2019 and 2020.
What is your next sand sculpting challenge?
I’ll be taking part in the World Sand Champions – the “Race Against the Tide” challenge-based sand sculpture competition that will be starting in mid-July 2021, in New Brunswick, Canada. The competition will be filmed for a TV series. Skilled artists have been selected from around the world to compete in the biggest and most challenging tide sand sculpture competition. Since building sand sculptures requires planning, patience, unity and teamwork, I believe this will help me to develop and practice team spirit.