Walking through the gate and into his garden full of lush foliage, it was quite clear that Royden O’ Gibbs is an artist completely at peace with his surroundings. Having just completed one of his routine art classes, our amiable host proceeded to take us down memory lane, while presenting us with one masterpiece after the other. A glance at his living room showed the proof of years of painting, with pieces of different shapes and sizes stacked in every available bit of space, instantly summing up his experience in the field. While his paintings were being photographed, Royden made sure each one was accompanied with an interesting back story, almost bringing the paintings to life.
“I would say it was an inborn talent which I then went on to develop,” he said, adding that his learnings at the Cora Abraham art classes and later on at the Amarasekera Academy of Art, was what taught him the essential technical principles of art. While Royden began his artistic journey with pastels, he eventually tried out other mediums such as water colours, acrylics, and later on explored pen and ink, turning out some truly amazing sketches in this medium.
“I love my country, its history and heritage, and I strongly believe that as artists, we have a responsibility to help re-create and preserve these vital aspects for posterity, especially for our future generations to view and appreciate.” This motivation, coupled with his love for adventure, was what has inspired him to travel to remote parts of the island, in order to paint monuments and sceneries of religious and historic interest. Some of the locations he has painted are now sadly already gone as a result of urbanization and development, making his paintings even more significant.
Looking through the scores of paintings presented to us – ranging from Lankathilake, Ambakke and Abhayagiriya, to Situlpauwa and Kandai Rodai in Jaffna – most of them looked exactly like photographs of the original religious monument and were proof of his artistic prowess. This being just a fraction of all his creations, Royden explained that a number of his paintings now sit in the living rooms of Ambassadors and diplomats who have served in Sri Lanka, and who wanted to take back a souvenir which was representative of the country and its rich history.
While saying a special thank you to his wife who tolerated and supported his travels far into the country to find such locations over the years, Royden added that his future plans consist of teaching, traveling and painting. As he bid us goodbye, he pledged to continue his undertaking to recreate pieces depicting Sri Lanka’s history and heritage.