Portrait of the young therapist as artist: Nuwan Foneska

By day he can be found working therapy sessions at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM), but in his spare time, Nuwan Fonseka takes in his own form of therapy, the arts.

Fonseka has been painting for over 15 years and recently he returned from an art show in Montreal on June 28. Fonseka also exhibited his work in Chennai, India in early May and in his hometown of Colombo in Sri Lanka in late April.

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"I have a lot of friends and colleagues in Sri Lanka that help in arranging the exhibits," said Fonseka, "there was a good turn out there."

Fonseka exhibits and sells his artwork, something he has been doing since his time as a student.

"I didn't have a lot of money and income was hard to come by when I was in school, so I sold my paintings."

The paintings that Fonseka creates are in the category of abstract, thanks in part to his biggest influences, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

"I'm very inspired by the works of Picasso and Matisse," said Fonseka, "I spent three years in England and France and Barcelona, and was able to see some Picasso paintings in museums."

In September, Fonseka will host his first solo show in Manitoba, when he travels to Winnipeg on Labor Day weekend. His travel could likely be a supply run as well, as he explains the challenges presented to an artist in Thompson.

"There are no supply stores here in Thompson, so I have to go to Winnipeg for things like brushes," said Fonseka, "framing is another challenge up here."

Remote northern communities like Thompson face challenges like this in many difference facets, and expanding a new cultural scene can be a process. It is Fonseka's hope that one day Thompson will have an art material store and an arts café, similar to those found in larger cities like Canada's art capital, Montreal.

"I see young artists in town, and we're going to have more in the generations to come," said Fonseka, "it would be good if they had a place like a café where they could go to have coffee and talk to other artists and discuss things like culture and share their knowledge."

The passion that Fonseka has for his craft and the culture that art embodies is evident, and he has gone as far as to implement art in to his therapy sessions at AFM.

"It's not to be confused with art therapy, because that's an entirely different discipline," said Fonseka, "but art can be very therapeutic and is a useful way to help people express themselves. Art is a universal language, and anyone can use it."

Fonseka's work can be viewed online at: www.artsnuwan.com

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