Art from the heart

For most couples, it can be difficult to share a home and a similar career without encroaching on each other’s space.

But for Renate and Mikael Seffer, this overlap between work and play provides the perfect canvas for their relationship.

Entering the home of the West Bay artists is like floating into a rainbow of colour. A vibrant palette of blues, greens and reds captures the pair’s welcoming nature while adding a sense of life to their home. It is evident that this is a marriage full of passion – for art, for colour, and for each other.

Renate’s creativity blossomed from an early age. The Australian-born painter, who moved to Cayman in 1995, has “art in her genes”; her mother and grandfather were artists, and her father a musician and metal smith. While growing up near Melbourne, Renate’s mother instilled in her daughter and her three sons the importance of art. To Renate, her mother is her mentor. It is this ingrained passion for art that has inspired Renate to dedicate herself to paintings full-time for the last five years.

Mikael also has creativity in his blood, but it was only in the past year that it manifested on the canvas. His talent, however, seems to exceed his experience. At his first exhibition at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, not long after his first show, Mikael sold every piece of artwork he exhibited. Now, people interested in commissions continue to contact him, and a large number of his orders are international.

Despite the potential for conflict, Renate and Mikael create beautiful, yet unique, masterpieces while working side by side. Occasionally, they join forces to create spectacular works of art. Renate says they “bounce off each other”, despite their different styles.

Looking at their exhibition space, the disparity between their art forms is immediately apparent. Mikael creates stunning pieces using various methods, including acrylics, enamels and pigments. The works vibrate with movement and life. Mikael loves the colour, rhythm and flow of abstract work. He says his style lends well to interior design and, because of this, many people send him photos of their homes when they commission pieces. He then creates an artwork that will connect with the space, his background in design and interest in architecture allowing him a multifaceted view of how the piece will fit. Mikael’s inspirations are evident in his art; the bright colours of Louis Morris, the fluidity of Dale Frank and the rough, abstract style of Sam Feinstein, who was passionate about colours and emotions. Mikael combines these aspects in his striking body of work.

Within Renate’s art, however, two distinct styles are at play. Many of her are paintings could be described as impressionist. She finds inspiration in the vibrant colours and scenes of West Bay, showcasing her interest in Cayman’s local culture. Other paintings are more structured, with bright, Caribbean colours that capture the eye. It is clear that while Renate resonates with the impressionist style, she wants her art to be accessible to a broad spectrum of people.  When asked which artist inspires her, she explains that she is moved by her homeland’s Aboriginal art and also the “whimsical impressionism” of Australian-artist Ken Done. However, it is the personalities and stories behind the artists that inspire her most.

Renate and Mikael are not the sort of artists who keep to themselves. With their bubbly personalities, they love to invite people into their home and studio. The studio has been open for a year, and three times a week or by special appointment, the public can view these colourful, energetic pieces. The couple’s passion is to share their art with the people of Cayman. As well as their regular shows throughout the year, in December they held their first open studio. Renate and Mikael want to make this a regular occurrence, so the public can meet the artists and view their work in a studio setting.

Renate also plans to create personal workspaces for the couple in the studio. At the moment, they work side by side in a small building in their garden, separate to their home, and while it is going well “so far”, they do not want to run the risk of encroaching on each other’s space. Renate hopes to add to her resume of international shows; she has shown in Canada, the United States, England and Spain. Her last international show was in October, 2009, at the Sensorial Realities exhibition at the Agora Gallery in Chelsea, New York. These shows, she says, allow her to express herself in a wider arena and develop both her experience and exposure. Mikael, who already has a growing overseas client base, wants to join his wife at these international shows. In the meantime, the couple will continue to exhibit locally, including at the National Gallery and also at the new Arteccentrix Gallery in Governors Square.

With a busy year ahead, the Seffers show no sign of slowing down. But, no matter where they are, or how much work they have, their art and their relationship will continue to thrive. And, for that, Cayman’s artistic community can only be grateful.  


Stephen Clarke