The Illustrated Book Project with Sam Perera
In 2014 , Sam Perera approached me with the idea of putting together a series of books based on the historical and religous stories which had a relevance to places in Sri Lanka. Over the next year Sam provided me with a marvellous retelling of these narratives specifically aimed at children, but we always wanted them to have an appeal to adults and that they were not "dumbed down". Hence we came up with books for children and discerning adults, and so they came to be completed by the end of 2015
For me this has been an amazing and inspiring journey into a culture I only had a surface understanding of. Technically it has been hugely challenging and the research and learning has enriched and fed into my ongoing paintings which in many ways are the reverse of the traditional illustration. The words came first here, whereas in my usual work I have referred to the images as illustrations for unwritten books, inviting the viewer to create there own stories.
The response has been very positive and I have shown the original paintings at two exhibitions at Barefoot Gallery. To my relief I have found that my work and Sams words have met nothing but positive responses and that our first objective of publishing a series of affordable books combining fine storytelling and complex imagery has succeeded.
We have further plans to publish in both Tamil and Sinhala, and hopefully, if publishers can be found, to release them into the world at large. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have had making them.
Alex Stewart 2015