• Vishmi Helaratne

Holy Crops presents an intimate series of sculptural paintings by Vishmi Helaratne, the presentation offers an emotion of their fluid ambiguity and forecasts a sense of freedom while harvesting their intense obsession with colour theory and investigation of external and internal matter. Helaratne generates a foundation of safety and worship for their audience as they act specifically within the personal by preaching this potency through a reflective and adaptive process with paint. By fostering a thick echoing of lineage with their Sri Lankan ancestors, Vishmi fluently foreshadows their history and embodiment of labour through their continued meditative construction of painting and sculpture that is fused, layered and solidified.

Helaratne’si rresistible constructions – created at their Karaka residency earlier this year – oscillate between painting and object, never quite giving permission to be fully either. Thick layers of iridescent paint have been obsessively built up over time, utilising a technique that more closely resembles cake decoration, than traditional painting methods. It’s perhaps no surprise then, that Helaratne’s resulting creations have a near edible quality to them, with their sumptuous skin and irresistible glaze. Their layered surfaces amass a joyful accumulation of colour and texture which shifts with changing light; resulting in a visceral, enchanting encounter that induces an alarmingly tactile response.

Holy Crops explores the ambiguities and mercurial qualities of paint, and as such these theatrical works revel in their materiality and ooze with surface ornamentation. What is notable with Helaratne’s new series, is that the medium and technique have become more firmly part of the subject matter, with the figuration/representation becoming more obscure. Proofing Blue’s delicate cones of sculpted paint, rise up like the contours of a topographical map, hinting of form without clear/obvious depiction. While other works in this series (Chocolate Eye & Daddy) suggest and provoke with silhouette & tone. Helaratne’s idiosyncratic objects are at once playful and raw. It’s their quiet forms and concealed images, combined with animated texture and radiant surface, that tantalises and fascinates.

What translates in Holy Crops is the consistency and proficiency of layered marks and the subtly of hidden structures and unknown landscapes. There is a clear indication and response of intergenerational trauma that is densely smothered by the lamination of paint. This is a therapeutic practice where stored pain is transmitted and regurgitated into birthing something of love. “The works admit to being haptic and messy during production, yet they are confidently harnessed when viewed upright against a white wall, they are a great harvest of newborns and mystery from crops grown and rooted a very, very long time ago.”

Gallery Hours

  • Tues-Fri: 10am-6pm
  • Sat: 10am-4pm


  • 1 Faraday Street
  • Parnell
  • Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland