b. 1981, in Hyderabad, India


Varunika Saraf is an artist and art historian based in Hyderabad. In her large-scale paintings, Saraf draws upon a multitude of archival sources from art history, newspapers, popular culture, etc., to engage in a conceptual dialogue with the past and critically analyse the antecedents of a range of contemporary political and social issues, particularly the exponential rise in violence. Central to her practice since 2001 is the use of wasli, a surface created by the Mughal technique of binding together layers of paper. Saraf modifies the original scale and form of this technique and adapts it to her unique artistic requirements. On to this surface, she casts a rich deposit of colour, each layer painstakingly built-up by different washes of watercolours ground from natural and synthetic pigments by Saraf herself. Her visually rich surfaces are further enhanced by the use of dyeing, appliqueing, collage, embroidery, block-printing, etc.


Saraf’s works, often disguised as beautiful paintings seek to expose the uncomfortable reality of violence in our times which is often erased. Her works are imbued with the spirit of historic enquiry into contemporary situations and serve an elegiac function. She interrogates the contemporary through the perspective of the marginalised.


In her more recent works, she engages with “apocalyptic manuscripts” particularly the Augsburg Wunderzeichenbuch or the Book of Miraculous Signs. She uses the medieval imaginary of interpretations and revelations, to develop a language that allows us to prophecise, process phenomena, fear as well as political and social upheavals. Drawing inspiration from Griselda Pollock’s seminal work on memory that “agitates the present to warn us of the continuing threat, not only of genocide but of the experimental elaboration of a system of total domination and systemic dehumanization” (Griselda Pollock & Max Silverman, Concentrationary Imaginaries, 2015), she uses the iconography of miraculous and apocalyptic visions, to engage with the growing phenomena of violence that are bringing us to the brink of near-totalitarian terror.

Art Fairs