IN A DROP

What started out as impressions of the external world became the expression of an inner one. Valeria Weerasinghe’s creative trajectory has brought her from illustration to animation, and the acclaimed artist uses it now to reconnect with her heritage. Lose yourself in the deep hues and bold colors of today’s feature, accompanied by an intimate interview with Valeria about her process and inspirations.

Your journey as an artist has taken you from Italy to the UK and back again, with a focus on animation and illustration. Can you share with us how your cultural background and education in both countries have influenced your artistic style and approach?  

My passion for art manifested itself during the years spent in the UK, before then it was something I just really liked but never thought of or rather, I didn’t know I could pursue as a career. The educational side was of course really important and exposed me to a lot of things but it was mostly the people and the art that I’ve met along the way that helped me realise that I needed to give this a shot. London as a city played a very important role, in feeling liberated with my thoughts and artistic vision, without caring about expectations or judgement. I returned home to Italy with everything I had collected in those years, and with a much more conscious and intimate approach to art. The attachment to my country is a subtle and quiet one, but very present nonetheless. 

Animation seems to have provided a perfect medium for merging your love for cinema with your passion for drawing. How did you discover this intersection, and what draws you to animation as a storytelling medium?

I guess it was a series of things and dots that I have connected along the way which gradually led me to animation, like an organic evolution of my work. After my first degree where I was mostly drawn into the live action side of filmmaking, I spent a few years where I drew a lot. Rekindling with drawing felt like a very familiar place to me since it’s something I had always done, but always on the side. It was a moment of experimentation, where I had no idea where things would end up. The idea of being able to create stories and make my characters come to life fascinated me and eventually felt the right place to be. What draws me to animation is probably the endless possibilities you have to build something from scratch and be as playful as you want.

Your short film, ‘In una Goccia’ (In a Drop), funded by the ‘Premio Mutti’ grant, explores themes of heritage and escapism. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this film and the message you hope to convey to audiences?

In una Goccia is a very personal film that links to a specific moment of my life. The return home after many years abroad. The feeling of not fully fitting in until something clicks. Realising that I am the sum of two cultures and that I am legitimate to feel a bit of both and not just one or the other was a turning point for me. I didn’t really have the ambition to convey one specific message, but instead my hope was and still is to take the audience onto a journey through different emotions.

Your illustrations have evolved from depicting external observations to exploring more personal and introspective themes, including your cultural identity and South Asian heritage. How has this evolution influenced your artistic process, and what challenges or joys have you encountered along the way?

I think that this shift happened the moment I started to acknowledge my personal feelings and my inner self, which also happened to be during the first lockdown in 2020, a time where we weren’t allowed to see other people. I often think about the time when I used to draw people around me in different situations, strangers I had absolutely zero connections to but that inspired me somehow, maybe for a funny walk or something quirky that would catch my attention. I still do that from time to time, but if you take a look at my sketchbook right now it would be more drawings where the eye is drawn inwards rather than outwards. In relation to my art and South Asian heritage, it came to a shock when one day a few years ago I realised that I barely ever drew characters that looked like me. That made me think a lot, it was a problem which said a great deal about what the lack of representation can do on a personal level. What followed was the beginning of a moment of exploration and my illustrations became the right medium for this journey, facilitating the reconnection with my roots and the embrace of my cultural identity.

Your preference for bright, saturated colors and rounded, softer lines gives your work a distinct aesthetic. How do you choose these elements to convey emotions and themes within your illustrations?

I love to play around with colours and it is a very instinctive process to me. I do associate colours with certain emotions so when I’m working on an illustration I do take into account what I want to convey through it. There are also times where I feel stuck inside certain colour palettes, like I want to keep hanging out with some specific tones before moving onto a potential next phase! Regarding the lines, it’s something that developed itself as I experimented. I grew to really love softer and rounder lines instead of harsher shapes which would help to give a more flowy and dynamic feel to my illustrations.

We now have an ongoing theme named Sugar Rush. If art was eye candy, what would be your favourite sweet treat?

This is a tough question. Ok, so I have many but I will go with Babà al Rum, a typical Italian dessert specifically from Naples which apparently is also a distant cousin of a Babka. It looks like a soft cylinder shaped sponge soaked in rum and that I love as it is or filled with whipped cream/ custard and wild strawberries on top.

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Bio

Valeria Weerasinghe is an Italian-Sri Lankan illustrator, filmmaker and animation programmer. Her work explores themes of cultural identity and introspection in everyday life through the use of bold colours and movement.

Credits

Artist/ Valeria Weerasinghe @valeeeria

https://www.valeriaweerasinghe.com/

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

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