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Videos / May 29, 2017

In the Studio with Rajni Perera

See how references to Japanese animation, Indian miniaturism and contemporary fashion are blended in the Toronto artist’s meticulously painted work

Toronto-based artist Rajni Perera works out of her Kensington Market laneway home—but as the scale of her pieces continues to ramp up, she’ll likely need a larger space. She’s preparing for a number of upcoming shows in Toronto and beyond. For the 2017 group show “Migrating the Margins” at the Art Gallery of York University, Perera relocated to the Jane and Finch to create work in situ ahead of the exhibition opening.

Born in Sri Lanka, Perera developed a love of science fiction when she was growing up, first sparked by the series Robotech, and this influence has seeped into her work. Her AFRIKA GALAKTIKA series, in particular, depicts women in space, with rockets for transport, elaborate high-tech weapons, bodies outfitted in constellations and more. Perera carefully blends her sci-fi influences with a number of other reference points, such as Indian miniaturist art.

“The canon, during my school years, started to fail me as an immigrant,” says Perera. “It’s really Eurocentric, it’s very white-centric, and I stopped seeing myself in what I was being taught.” So during her time at OCAD University, Perera began to delve on her own into art history outside of Western constraints, where miniaturist painting caught her eye. She subversively blends elements of this tradition with her love of sci-fi and fashion to create meticulously painted, carefully detailed patterned works, which are often empowering portraits of women of colour.

Perera’s work is on view at Project Gallery in Toronto until October 27, 2018.

In this studio visit by Canadian Art’s video intern, Brittany Shepherd, Perera discusses her influences and sources of inspiration.

Brittany Shepherd

Brittany Shepherd is an artist and videographer based in Toronto.