Museum of Brisbane

Artist Profile: Sean Rafferty

  • Learn more about artist Sean Rafferty

Artist Profile: Sean Rafferty

Sean Rafferty is a Brisbane-based artist born in Ireland in 1979.  Sean’s conceptual practice involves using diverse materials, including cardboard fruit and vegetable cartons to explore connections between people, objects, histories and landscapes. Sean draws from an extensive collection of over 800 ready-made produce cartons to create eclectic, large-scale installations and carefully considered arrangements to tell stories. By positioning fruit and vegetable boxes as art objects, abstracted from their original purpose, Sean invites us to consider the influencing social, cultural, and historical context that informs their aesthetics and function.

Banner: Sean Rafferty (Galway, Ireland b. 1979), Market Place (detail) 2017, giclee prints on paper on cardboard, timber and acrylic. Photo: Carl Warner, courtesy the artist.

Image: Sean Rafferty (Galway, Ireland b. 1979) with his artwork Market Place 2017, giclee prints on paper on cardboard, timber and acrylic. Photo: Carl Warner, courtesy the artist.

 

Image: Sean Rafferty (Galway, Ireland b. 1979), Market Place (detail) 2017, giclee prints on paper on cardboard, timber and acrylic. Photo: Carl Warner, courtesy the artist.

 

Image: Installation view of Tastes Like Sunshine at the Museum of Brisbane 2017. Photography: Carl Warner, courtesy the artist.

In his work Market Place (2017) featured in the Museum of Brisbane exhibition Tastes Like Sunshine (2017), Sean layered cut-outs of fruit carton images collected across Queensland in a playful large-scale composition. Selected cartons also spanned an entire wall in an arrangement that corresponded with their farm’s location. The installation displayed vibrant and fruity caricatures from far-north Queensland, including laid-back bananas and tropical mangoes in bikinis, alongside more subdued cartons from southern regions that used bold colours to represent seasons, migration patterns, and landscapes. While this iconography is at once fun and comforting in its familiarity, and uplifting in its celebration of fresh produce, behind its whimsy and joyfulness lies a more in-depth consideration of place, belonging, and identity.

Through his research archive Cartonography (2017)Sean invites viewers to explore connections between produce cartons and their respective farmers and regionsHe tours regional and remote areas across Australia, establishing meaningful relationships with growers, discovering and mapping the impacting environmental factors, and interpreting the aesthetics of cartons.

Sean’s evolving archive reveals that growers often move beyond a simple consideration of colour, humour, and wordplay. The boxes are designed with symbolic imagery, encapsulating anything from personal narratives, expressions of identity, and stories of migration, to representations of humanity and the natural world. Sean’s complex, ongoing, and multidimensional practice uncovers the histories, conditions, and systems that connect people with places as well as the continual shifts that affect this sense of connection and belonging over time.

Since receiving a Masters of Fine Art and Design from the University of New South Wales in 2007, Sean’s extensive exhibition profile includes Stills Gallery, Cairns Art Gallery, Artspace Sydney, and The National 2019. He is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including two studio residencies at ArtSpace Sydney and the Hazelhurst Regional Art Prize.

Image: Sean Rafferty (Galway, Ireland b. 1979), Cartonograph (Market Place) 2017, cardboard fruit cartons, timber and fixtures. Photo: Carl Warner, courtesy the artist.