Shayna Fonseka on creating new worlds

We spoke with artist Shayna Fonseka about the inspirations behind her latest unlimited edition print ‘On the Tangent’ and the ‘trans-naturistic’ worlds she conjures in her work.

December 4, 2018

Infinite Multiple: In your work you create alternative, organic, other-worldly environments. Why does your work focus on this and where does the inspiration come from?

Shayna Fonseka: I enjoy toying with the bounds between fact and fiction. Can we really believe what we are told and how far can we question it? From this starting point I produce artwork that continues to live within a fictional environment. I take natural subjects from the world around me and alter them into objects that belong to a fictional world.

The suburban environment has unintentionally become my primary source of inspiration. I’m inspired by the patterns and shapes I see every day: the geometric water marks on the pavement, camouflage shapes on tree trunks, and cement patch repairs on curb stones.

I enjoy exaggerating these suggested patterns and use them to create a vivid more intuitive portrayal of the subject matter I am focusing on. These newly reformed subjects I draw, paint or sculpt, stand alone or come together to create an alternative world to the one they are sourced from.

These other-worldly environments have also emanated from the notion of control and risk. Uncertainty, anxiousness and helplessness are what we all experience. In response I take organic subject, modify it and place a fictional content onto them. In this process I am able to have maximal control; regulating its size, appearance and function.

IM: With the latest landscape you have created for Infinite Multiple there’s a sense of tranquility and calmness, but also of subtle, barely detectable movement. Can you talk about what inspired this landscape? What narrative is captured within the frame?

SF: All of my prints share the same world and chronology. Universally they belong to a ‘trans-naturistic’ world. A world where nature grows beyond its environmental and physical limitations, where organisms disguise themselves within the strange lands they have come to inhabit.

Each print is a snapshot moment; before, after or during a curious event.

In my latest landscape, vibrant red blobs float or fall from the sky. Some lay resting or growing from the large pebbles. A blue chain appears slightly off, hidden behind a thin bamboo plant.

The work offers small clues into what may have happened or is yet to. However, the way the narrative is read is up to that of the individual.

IM: You have a very vibrant colour palette across your work. Could you talk about how your colour choices fit within creating seemingly natural landscapes scenes. And why do you choose to combine sculpture and 2D work in creating your worlds?

SF: Colour choice is directly pure and instinctive.

I’ve begun to treat colour as puzzle pieces and build up a pattern in contrasts of relative intensity and area. The colours may convey a certain spatial sense through slight tonal variations. This is done in a restrained manner as to not distract the focus of the viewer from the entirety of the composition. The purpose is not to plant seeds of doubt, demand answers or question its truth, but for its aesthetic enjoyment.

I use colours taken in their purest intensity and that bring me the most delight. I cannot avoid employing a vibrancy and multitude of colour.

My natural order of making has always been a ripple effect. I want to explore the full materiality of the narrative. I don’t know where this exploration will lead. I may finish with a painting, born from a sculpture, formed from a print.

IM: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

SF: Share, buy and swap art.

Original artwork of any kind beats replica prints or posters.

Look past hype.

If you can’t afford it, make it!

Image: Shayna setting up a window installation for her Slade School of Art degree show in 2017.