Artist Germaine Suriyage: Recycled ImagesMar 19, 2018 09:33PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
By Michael GarriganThere are latent associations among the seemingly useless materials that surround us—a pen, a shovel, even crumpled paper. These connections just need to be coaxed out by a single, unique vision. This is the inspiration that motivates artist Germaine Suriyage.
Based in Lancaster, PA, Germaine Suriyage has created art out of the scraps he finds at work for close to 25 years.
Eye for the natural worldBorn in Sri Lanka, Suriyage came to America in 1976 to study zoology. Suriyage’s penchant for drawing began during an entomology class in college. After studying a bark beetle under a microscope, Suriyage painstakingly illustrated it dot by dot. It was his first and last stipple drawing. (Stippling is the creation of a pattern simulating varying degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots.)
“I was tasked with constructing a three-dimensional image of a bark beetle using the stipple drawing technique,” Suriyage recalls. “This tedious technique taught me how to balance black and white contrast, capture minute details and build three-dimensionality into drawings.”
Suriyage describes his current style as “a matrix of tightly knitted lines.” Each line creates a connection with a previous one, building into a detailed web of layers that depict his keen eye for the natural world.
Education through inspirationSuriyage is inspired by what others consider trash. He began to carefully repurpose leftover materials he found at work—paper tubes and cardboard slip-sheets—and items at home, including milk and egg cartons slated for recycling, into “single-fold animal masks” and sculptures. This artwork, painted in bold colors with deep lines on a geometric scale, depicted Suriyage’s expressive points of view.
He also began drawing with pens, and his doodles quickly became detailed pieces of animal art. Suriyage scribbled on computer paper with black pen, evolving the technique he now frequently utilizes in his designs.
Suriyage hopes his drawings educate people about the animals of North America and bring awareness to Earth Day. He has just finished compiling a 70-page book titled Adventures of Chickadee which “describes the hidden intelligence of bird, fish, mammal and insect,” Suriyage explains. Each of the three mediums he works in—ink drawings, sculptures and masks—originate from the material he finds, inspired by his knowledge of and passion for animals.
A path lit by manySuriyage’s path to Lancaster from Sri Lanka, from tracking mosquitos to creating art and working in dairy processing, was lit by many people. “My journey to the United States began while working to eradicate malaria in Sri Lanka with doctors from The World Health Organization,” Suriyage says.
A doctor he worked with helped Suriyage gain admission to Brigham Young University in 1976. While in school, a friend secured a job for Suriyage at the BYU dairy plant. “With much excitement, I learned how to make all kinds of cheeses, yogurt, butter and ice cream,” he says.
Suriyage’s knack for dairy processing led him to the Utah State University dairy plant and eventually Turkey Hill Dairy, based in Conestoga, where he utilized his knowledge of ice cream mix formulation and processing.
Suriyage’s art, through an honest and intricate perception of the physical and natural world, exemplifies “my deep gratitude for those who have helped me on my journey,” he says.
The bigger pictureSuriyage’s drawings not only capture the detail of the animal, but its connection to place.
“I’ve seen the grandeur and natural beauty of canyons, savannas and estuaries throughout my travels,” he says. His art takes these observations and objects some consider waste into something useful, interpretive and inspiring. Though seemingly random, each dot, each piece of material salvaged, like a stipple drawing, creates a dynamic portrait of mediums and experiences for Suriyage to explore.
Suriyage’s work has been exhibited at F&M University, in Sri Lanka and in the art gallery he fashioned in the basement of his home.
“I plan to retire in 2019 and shift my focus to art full-time,” he says. “I currently sell my art at flea markets and online. My goals are to orient my website for online sales and exhibit more in galleries.”
Suriyage also hopes to spend more time in Sri Lanka and contribute to its further development, after seeing malaria eradicated in 2016.
If you goAs part of Susquehanna Life magazine’s 25th anniversary celebration throughout 2018, Germaine Suriyage’s art will be featured in the Susquehanna Life Gallery at 217 Market St., Lewisburg, from April 1 through 30. Hours are: Mon., Tues, Wed., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment. You also can view Suriyage’s work online at recyclednatureart.com.
Michael Garrigan lives and works along the Susquehanna River in Marietta where he spends most of his time exploring its many tributaries and stories, and writing and teaching.