SEFTON RANI – Silence is the flower – 27July-20 Aug, 2021
Sefton Rani’s father worked in a paint factory in Avondale, West Auckland. His co-workers were predominantly Samoan, Tongan or Cook Islander, as Sefton’s father was himself. He had arrived in Aotearoa at the age of twenty in 1959 or 1960 with only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in English. Sefton’s father learnt fast. He became a shader and foreman at British Paints. Though the language spoken at the factory was English, the culture between workers was Polynesian. It was there that Sefton first ate hangi. Three years after arriving, Sefton’s father married a local Aucklander of European descent and they began making a family.
Paint holds a central position in the history of art but for Sefton Rani its materiality holds other meanings. Through engaging with the luxurious slipperiness of enamel he remembers visits to the paint factory – vats, smells, poured colours, gloss, machinery, men – and reconnects with his Polynesian heritage, a heritage grounded in the experience working migrants. Rani’s constructions also reflects the bright colours and tivaevae (quilting) of the Pacific.
‘Silence is the Flower’is Sefton Rani’s first exhibition in the South Island. For 25 years he worked in the hotel industry, rising to managerial position and working around the world. Eight years ago he stepped away off that path -chose to be home, chose to be an artist – and over those eight years he has solidly developed his aesthetic and ethos.
Sefton Rani is a full time self-taught artist working out of Piha on the west coast of Auckland, New Zealand. He sees himself as a sculptural painter.
His work is primarily created with solidified paint skins which he uses to investigate the materiality of paint and how far it can be pushed. The paint skins, which are formed on glass, plastic or objects, once dry, are peeled off and enhanced with various materials and methods. It is then collaged onto surfaces, or simply allowed to float on the wall as an object. The work often utilises text, found objects, combustion and natural pigments such as pounamu (greenstone) dust, charcoal or rust. These aesthetics enable him to ‘paint time’ and allow the historical journey of the media to enhance the visual value to each piece created.
Sefton’s time spent working in a paint factory and observing the build-up of paint and detritus is a key reason for using this unusual material and methodology. He encourages the apparent aging of his work surfaces reflecting the influence of wabi sabi, the Japanese aesthetic described as “beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete” which he has always been drawn to.
Rani is of Cook Island heritage, and his work enables him to explore his “Pacificness”. He refers to completed works as “urban tapa” which is influenced by the marks and forms of traditional tapa, carving, tattoo and tivaevae. Informed by these narratives and imageries he uses modern materials, methods and motifs to reflect and share his own ideologies, identity and imagination.