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When past meets the present

Updated on: 27 November,2021 08:30 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rahul Mahesh | theguide@mid-day.com

Artist Varunika Saraf’s ongoing exhibition hits aspects of human nature and the Indian condition in a visceral fashion

When past meets the present

Varunika Saraf takes inspiration from miniature art. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

When we step into Chemould Prescott Road, we are immediately drawn to the intensive atmosphere created thanks to the latest show by Varunika Saraf. The subject matter is socio-politically relevant and makes a poignant statement on the current state of mind of the nation and people. “This collection is largely evocative of the times we live in, and the events leading to this point in time. It’s a recognition of our time in history and taking stock of where we are as a people,” Saraf tells us while leading us on a walkthrough. The body of work titled Caput Mortuum takes its name from the use of synthetic iron pigment caput mortuum, which resembles the colour of dried blood. “All my works have always had a socio-political concern. I don’t see my art to be distinctive from what I think or feel and every artist responds to the conditions of the present. This body of work is a representation of what I feel,” she adds about her inspirations behind the show.

Saraf’s interest in miniature painting emerged from her curiosity about the art form, its artists and their techniques. Her background as an art historian apart from being an artist helps inform her practice and allows for eclectic influences. Works like Portents II and Voices in the Night are examples in the exhibition that portray her varied influences. The latter is a contemporary interpretation of Augsburg Wunderzeichenbuch or the Book of Miraculous Signs. “I have this innate obsession to paint every day, and if I don’t do that, what do I do? What am I about? Art is a deep and intricate part of who I am,” she admits.  

Saraf makes use of various colour pigments that she grinds herself for a watercolour base and uses wasli as a material in her works. The use of her colours plays a big part in defining the feel and atmosphere of her artwork. “There is a sense of violence in forgetting; Caput Mortuum and its likeness to dried blood is indicative of how memories of the past bleed into the present. At a time when memory is fleeting and ideas are often manufactured according to convenience, it is important to gauge where we came from and what got us here. The works on display here are my refusal to forget,” comments Saraf.

Even though miniature art informs her work, she refuses to be boxed into the traditions of the art form and her art often breaks the mould of set ways. Saraf feels that there is a sense of permanence when she paints and credits the Chemould team for being instrumental in understanding what she wanted to express, leading to this collaboration.

“Art for me is a lucid process. There is no right or wrong way to approach art, it has a lot to do with the personality of the artist. Finding the truth in art is what has been my prime motivation and I know no other way,” Saraf explains.

Till December 30; 10 am to 6 pm  
At Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, Fort.

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