A Sri-Lankan born artist whose work floats between Western and Immigrant culture, Rajni Perera’s work is an East-West dialogue of ideas, concerning immigrant identity issues, female sexuality and science fiction and fantasy. This is her first exhibition in Sri Lanka. Exhibition will be open from August 28 to 25 September 25, at the Saskia Fernando Gallery, 41, Horton Place, Colombo 7.
The excerpts of the interview
What made you choose to study art?
My choice to study art is probably just an extension of my interest in it and the skills I have developed to make it. I started drawing and painting as a very small child and my parents nurtured that, which led to me pursuing an art education in Toronto, Canada. Art education isn’t, however, the be all and end all of the makings of an art career. In some cases I believe that academia has contributed to the demise of the art world by creating exclusivism and elitist art scenes that alienate the average culture-lover and widen the gap between producer and consumer, so to speak.
Have you maintained a connection to Sri Lanka through your work and/or life?
Growing up between two cultures means that you don’t belong to one place or another. In Toronto I’m a Sri Lankan and in Sri Lanka I’m a Canadian, which is confusing, but makes for great subject matter. My connection with Sri Lanka is a sinuous thing; childhood memories, first impressions of ideals of craftsmanship, the mark of distinction, aesthetically speaking, in my work – it shows itself in many strange ways. That said, I must admit that I haven’t visited Sri Lanka in 10 years.
When did you leave the island?
Why is this series of work more relevant to Indian culture?
It could be considered to have a closer relationship with antiquated Rajput and Mughal-style miniaturist portraiture. However, although the clothing styles and poses borrow from embellished photography at the turn of the century in India, the association with issues of monarchy-worship, divinization of royalty, and the spectacle of royalty as an intimidation tactic, are something that I want to explore in such a broad context as South East Asia, maybe even globally recognizable issues. In the diptych Royal Couple, issues of colonialism are explored as well, which is an ongoing issue even here in the time of Capitalism, which we can call Neocolonialism.
How do you see yourself in relation to the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene?
I don’t know anything about it. It’s hard to tell just yet! I would love to do a residency here, and some public art projects like murals or installations.
What are the notable differences between the Canadian art scene and the Sri Lankan and what are your suggestions for its sustainable growth?
The Canadian art scene is very interested in mirroring other art scenes. I don’t know enough about the Sri Lankan art scene to make a valuable enough comparison, although I can highly recommend not following art world trends and creating something truly unique, a quality much more admirable. Some great examples are the Indian and Pakistani art scenes.
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