Rajni Perera: Traveller

Rajni Perera: Traveller
31st Oct 2020 - 14th Feb 2021 Tramway Visual Arts

Tramway is delighted to present ‘Traveller’, the first exhibition in the UK by multi-disciplinary artist Rajni Perera.

Sri Lanka-born Toronto-based artist Perera’s bold and intricately crafted paintings, sculptures, textile works, and installations explore issues of ancestorship, hybridity, futurity, and identity through the lens of science fiction. Influenced by a range of visual references including Indian miniaturisim, Astro-blackness, paleontology, magical realism, scientific illustration and fashion as well as her personal experiences of migration, Perera’s works evoke alternative histories, new mythologies and possible futures for the diasporic individual. On entering her immersive installations, we encounter vivid, futuristic worlds bought to life by a distinctive visual language which incorporates traditional techniques and crafts such as embellishment, weaving, woodwork and basketry. The ancestral legacies embodied in these techniques are forged into ornate, protective garments which become spiritual suits of armour for an empowered and resilient ‘Traveller’ of the future.

The exhibition ‘Traveller’ encompasses a series of vignettes of a story about the future of humans which positions the diasporic body as the focus of the future. The Travellers and the world/s they inhabit are portrayed across a constellation of works which encompasses meticulously painted portraits, garments, busts and a large statue within an immersive exhibition environment. Together they create a dialogue between past, present and future evoking the sense that we are witnessing museum artefacts from a potential future not yet come to pass. 

In addition, the exhibition includes a number of tools and garments conceived to protect the Traveller from a polluted environment following environmental collapse. Three elaborately embellished face masks are displayed on plinths, created in 2019 and described as ‘pollution wear’ they also convey notions of protection and survival being played out in our present moment. 

Described by Negarra A.Kudumu  in the accompanying text for the first iteration of the Traveller series ‘The Travellers are protected by way of ancestral armour developed for body and spirit, and adapted to fit behaviours of care and nourishment, while facing the dangers of off-world commute, inhospitable terrain, and territorial dispute. These vestments have been produced slowly, in some cases over the course of many centuries.  Their mythologies join hands and worlds through bloodlines, through warp and weft, all the way through to the place where the formerly displaced are presently powerful, safe, protected and flourishing.’

This exhibition is funded by Creative Scotland and The High Commission of Canada in the UK, with additional support from Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council.

About Rajni Perera

Rajni Perera has been exhibited at the Phi Foundation (Montreal, Canada, 2020), Chromatic Festival (Montréal, Canada, 2019), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Toronto, Canada, 2018), The Museum of Modern  Art (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Art Metropole (Toronto, Canada, 2017), Gallery 44 (Toronto, Canada, 2017), the art Gallery of York University (Toronto, Canada, 2017), the Colombo Art Biennale (Edinburgh, UK, 2017), OTA Fine Arts (Tokyo, Japan 2017), Superchief Gallery (Brooklyn, USA, 2017), the Colombo Art Biennale (Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2016), The Public House of Art (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2016), Art Dubai (Dubai, UAE, 2016) and the Art League Houston (Houston, USA, 2014), and other sites. The Art Gallery of Ontario acquired one of her artworks in 2019.


Image: Installation shot, 2020, Kenny Hunter