The Power Plant

In/Tension with Rajni Perera

JAN 16 2024

“For me, the thing about science fiction,” explains Toronto-based Rajni Perera, “is its capacity as a medium to talk about really, really difficult [subjects], or things that people are having a really hard time wrapping their minds around. Someone does it in Sci-Fi, and suddenly it becomes feasible to think about.” .

In episode nine of In/Tension, Sri Lankan-born multimedia artist Rajni Perera sits down with host Neil Price to discuss the importance of self-representation, how science fiction informs her practice of world-building, and what keeps her going through the many challenges of working as an artist today.

Atelier of Rajni Perera. Photo: Rihab Essayh

Atelier of Rajni Perera. Photo: Rihab Essayh

Leveraging a wholly unique aesthetic, Rajni Perera explores the complex issues of hybridity, futurity, ancestry, migrant, marginalized identities, monsters, dream worlds, and more through a multitude of mediums—drawing, painting, clay, wood, lanterns, new media sculpture, textile, and synthetic taxidermy, to name a few. Inspired by her love of Sci-Fi books and films, Perera crafts characters that traverse hazardous environments in an attempt to survive a nightmarish future. Though fantastical and imagined, these spaces are, in fact, created in response to the very real threats of today. Despite their gravity, Perera’s speculative visions are not pessimistic, with the artist often infusing the characters and narratives with distinct creativity, humour, and hope.

Waiting For Sanniyaka | Acryl-gouache, polymer clay, pearls, silk, cotton, chalk on cotton gauze | 48” X 60” each | Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Deitch LA

Waiting For Sanniyaka | Acryl-gouache, polymer clay, pearls, silk, cotton, chalk on cotton gauze | 48” X 60” each | Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Deitch LA

Perera has exhibited extensively across the globe in numerous leading institutions and events, including Patel Brown Gallery in Toronto; The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg; Temple Contemporary in Philadelphia; the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in Los Angeles; Eastside Projects in Britain; Colomboscope in, Sri Lanka; the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the Gwangju Biennial in South Korea; and the Centre PHI in Montreal. Her work is included in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario; National Gallery of Canada; Sobey Foundation; and the Musée De Beaux Arts De Montréal.

As impressive as Perera’s exhibition record is her growing list of awards and honours. She has won or been nominated for a number of prestigious accolades, including the MOCA Award in 2023; York Wilson Memorial Award awarded in 2019; and a number of grants from the Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. In 2021, Perera was shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award.

In/Tension, produced by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, is a limited podcast series of intimate, thought-provoking and accessible conversations with emerging, mid-career, and established contemporary visual artists across Canada. In/Tension aims to shed light on the breadth of the Canadian contemporary art scene and provide a platform for diverse artistic voices to dive deep into their creative intentions and facets of their practice.

This project is supported by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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