Neil Ratnavira De Alwis an abstract expressionist born on August 7th, 1978 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was brought up by his single mother and grand mother in a country torn apart by civil war. The first years of his life, schooling was intermittent and life constantly interrupted by curfews, exploding car bombs, buses and building set on fire.
When the opportunity presented itself in 1989 his Mother and him moved to Paris, France, leaving behind his beloved grand-mother and extended family. In reality, Neil never had a say in this move and life was never going to be the same again.
It seemed like he had exchanged one ordeal for another... it was a different type of war. Arriving in Paris as a child, not speaking a word of French was one of the most difficult challenges he faced. Parisians did not take lightly to foreigners who did't speak their language. Neil did not know which was worse, leaving behind a loving family and his war torn country or stepping out into the streets of Paris & being treated like a transgressor of sorts because of the color of his skin. Despite moving to one of the most glamorous cities in the world Neil’s family lived in the roughest areas of Paris. His family was poor and the battle for survival was constant.
In spite of the economic hardships and diffitulties of social integration, Neil was successfully accepted into the sought after Art Institute of Paris, where he got his BA in Graphic design & Art.
At the age of 20 Neil moved to California to meet his estranged father which was a different type of shock. He soon realized that his father was a successful business man and artist but was a hopeless father. War torn Sri Lanka didn’t look so bad now.
Neil lost his younger sister three years ago and that left an indelible mark on him. Depression, hopelessness and a nervous breakdown led him to be a homeless pariah from society for over 3 years. Despite constantly fighting internal battles of loneliness, fear, anger, pain and sorrow he stays determined to live, paint and create. He often says “if I did not have painting I wouldn't be alive” For Neil, his art are his words, his solace and when required his weapon.
He started off as a traditional painter, perhaps due to his training in Paris and because his father is one of Asia’s best known artist, he had a hunger for something more than "just a pretty picture". He wanted to express himself and his inner feeling via his brushes so he looked to the great American painter from the 1950s like Pollack, Kline, Motherwell, Rothko and Lee Krasner. These are painters who spawned out of the great depression and their bold works punched you in the face and made you think.
He is a self-taught artist and his style has evolved over the years. He does not use conventional tools or brushes constantly pushing the limits of the paint and himself, He is currently painting under very difficult conditions, but he feels he is now, more than ever painting in the way and attitude he always wanted to paint.