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Animation (MA)

Irushi Tennekoon

Irushi is an artist and educator from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and currently a Chevening Scholar (2022/23) pursuing an MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art in London. She has a background in English Studies and taught English to undergraduates for almost a decade before pursuing her artistic practice full-time. From 2019-2022 she directed and animated a series titled Animate Her, with funding from the British Council, which featured the animated interviews of a group of exceptional women living and working in Sri Lanka. She is also currently one of the leading artists commissioned by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Sri Lanka to create a feature length documentary on architect Minnette De Silva’s (1918-1998) Watapuluwa Housing Scheme in Kandy. Through storytelling and documentation, she strives to bring light to stories from Sri Lanka and South Asia.  

Black and white photograph of Irushi Tennekoon outside the RCA in Kensington

My RCA grad film in progress titled 'The Banyan Song' is about a woman's friendship with an ancient banyan tree. The story takes place between the woman's home on a small village on the water, and a nearby island upon which the banyan tree has spread its roots and taken over, not allowing anything else to grow on the island. The woman visits the tree daily and collect samples of water, moss and other elements that inhabit the island. On one of her visits she realises something different in her old friend, the tree, and life as she knows it is about to change forever.

At the RCA I have been exploring darker, more uncomfortable themes that I usually avoid in my practice, such as human vulnerability when caring for another being, and the deep hollowness felt when we lose those we love. I have also strayed away from my comfort zone of vivid colours and limited myself to telling my grad film story in black and white, using the limited mediums of ink and charcoal.

Documentation has been a big part of my creative journey and I love recording things in my sketchbooks, and instagram. I even journal about the moods I am - good or bad - in on specific days when filming and it feels surreal to look back at these recollections months or even years later.

I have also loved taking pictures of my animation cohort at the RCA, including the studios and work in progress of my classmates who have been hugely inspirational in the making of my own MA film.

The Banyan Song TrailerTrailer for my grad film in progress.
Multiplane with camera and light set up
Irushi working on the multiplane with camera and light set up
Irushi working on the multiplane with camera and light set up
A miniature set of my film world to better understand scale and terrain
Paper cutout animation assets
Charcoal smudges on my studio computer table
Paper cutout assets ready to be filmed
Making my animation paper cutout assets
Sheet music for the Banyan Song
Conductor at music rehearsal
Harp and flutists at music rehearsal
Trumpets and violinists at music rehearsal
Flutist reading sheet music at rehearsal
Drummer at music rehearsal
Mics set up to record instruments
French horn player at music rehearsal
Asha de Vos on Studying Blue Whales (2019)This is the first of a series of seven short films from the "Animate Her Series" which featured animated interviews with a group of extraordinary women from Sri Lanka. In this short animated film, marine biologist and ocean educator Asha de Vos talks about the giant blue whale skeleton that inspired her as a child, and the challenges of being a South Asian woman in science.
Sybil Wettasinghe on the Umbrella Thief (2020)In this short animated interview, beloved children’s author and illustrator Sybil Wettasinghe recalls her childhood growing up in the southern Sri Lankan village Ginthota, and the inspiration behind her award winning children’s book, Kuda Hora or Umbrella Thief.