Nalini M. Jayasuriya was an internationally known artist from Sri Lanka, who exhibited her soul-stirring paintings in Manila, London, Bangkok, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo, Jerusalem and New York. She lectured on sacred art in many universities, including Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, and Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan. She was artist in residence for two years at the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC) in New Haven.
She was awarded Sri Lanka’s highest honor for the Arts by the President of Sri Lanka. Numerous books featuring her paintings as well as her poetry have been published in several languages. She was featured in the 2007 exhibition “The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today” at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City.
While growing up in Sri Lanka, Nalini never took an art course. As an eight-year old assigned to draw a still life in drawing class, she ended up erasing a hole in her paper, and was told to take her books and leave. She spent the rest of the year’s drawing class time in the library. Her real talent was music; from about age four, she could play almost any piece of music that she heard. At about age fifteen, she wrote a number of poems that were published, and later wrote a secondary-level reader consisting of letters from her cat, Ingy.
The direction of Nalini’s life changed when, as a young ESL teacher, she was offered an unsolicited British Council grant to study in England. She saw this as one of the many miracles in her life. For three years in London, she experienced a whole new world. She added evening classes to her schedule, including coursework in stained glass and enamel on metal, thinking that she would never again have such an opportunity. Later, she received seven scholarships and fellowships, (none of which she applied for) and she went on to live in thirty-six different countries.
Nalini taught art history and music history in various universities in seven different countries, including Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, an alma mater. She saw herself essentially as a historian, and gave emphasis to the art and architecture of four great religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, in that historical order. Vibrant color, peaceful or traumatic themes, and circular compositions are often expressed in her countless penetrating, soul-stirring and meditative works.
At least three books featuring her artwork as well as her writings have been published, one of them in Japanese. She exhibited internationally for many years, and has had a long and distinguished career, earning many honors.
More information on Nalini can be found in the OMSC monograph entitled A Time for My Singing – Witness of a Life published in 2004 in a limited, signed, and numbered edition of 500 copies. In addition to reproductions of many of her paintings, the book includes a sixty page memoir entitled “Reminiscences,” as well as a critical essay by John W. Cook, Former Director of the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale Divinity School.
Nalini passed away in September 2014.