This work is named after a line borrowed from the English translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem ‘Bol ke lab azaad hai teray’ because of its particular relevance in today’s context where we urgently need to speak out against injustices. The rise of right-wing populism in India has resulted in increased violence against the marginalised, particularly the Muslims, Dalits and other ethnic minorities. Social justice and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution are increasingly challenged. In order to enforce the Hindutva worldview on the country, the right-wing in India attempts to rewrite history. Every example that represents a progressive and syncretic tradition is perceived as a threat. Historical figures are vilified, anyone who stands against historical injustice and oppression, whether they are academics, activists, journalists or even students face violent reprisals, all forms of progressive literature are considered seditious, while archaeological monuments which are not part of their conception of the past face neglect and even destruction. Our history and collective memories appear adrift without a present. We need to dispel the collective amnesia that is gripping the society and resist all attempts made by the right to rewrite history and tamper with the social fabric of the society. This painting is a call to fight equally for our past and present, so that we may still have a future. To look at our history without the lens of nostalgia, to remember people without placing them on pedestals, to learn, question, reclaim and grow, both from their insights as well as shortcomings. As Eduardo Galeano suggests, we have to “search for the keys in the past history to explain our time”, particularly listen to the voices from our past even if they are contradictory to reflect upon the conflict and violence that is consuming our world. This painting highlights the importance of remembering certain individuals and their vision before the right consigns them into oblivion.
This artwork description is an excerpt from Chemould Prescott Road Artist Page on Varunika Saraf.
b. 1981, in Hyderabad, India Educational Qualification:In 2004, she completed her BFA in Painting from JNTU College of Fine Arts and Architecture, Hyderabad followed by an MFA in Painting from the Sarojini Naidu School of Fine Arts and Communications, University of Hyderabad in 2006. In 2008, Varunika Saraf completed her MPhil at School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU. She holds a PhD in Visual Studies from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU. Her thesis, Souvenirs, Fakes and Heritage: The Making of ‘Indian Miniature’examines pertinent questions about the historiography of paintings that are normatively labelled as ‘Indian miniatures’ in the discipline of Art History, contemporary practitioners and circulation of paintings as souvenirs and fakes.
Selected solo exhibitions include 2008: Tales of Our Times at Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi and 2010: The Chair in the Cloud, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai.
Selected group exhibitions include 2006: KAVA2, Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi. 2007: Emerging India, Art Alive Gallery and SA Fine Arts, London; Soft Spoken, Bombay Art Gallery, curated by Bose Krishnamachari and Meandering Membranes: A Contemporary Indian Art Show, Empire Art and Shrine Gallery, Kolkata. 2009: Unfaithfully Yours, Gallery SKE, Bangalore, curated by Alex Mathews. 2011: India Inclusive: Contemporary Art from India, Davos, Switzerland, curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta and Fabular Bodies: New Narratives in the Art of the Miniature Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai. 2012: Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, curated by Mami Kataoka and Allison Harding. 2013: Touched by Bhupen, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, curated by Ranjit Hoskote. 2016: Dwelling, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, curated by Ranjit Hoskote. 2017: Here be the Dragons, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, curated by Meera Menezes and A Preview to Desolation, Italian Cultural Centre, New Delhi, curated by Premjish Achari. 2018: The Edge and Excavation/Eruption, Shrine Empire, New Delhi, curated by Yashodhara Dalmia; Microsubversions Playbook, Conflictorium – Museum of Conflict, Ahmedabad, curated by Avni Sethi and Venkataraman Divakar and Days Without a Night: An Exhibition on Memory and Forgetting, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi, curated by Kanika Kuthiala and Leonhard Emmerling.
Varunika Saraf has been the recipient of prestigious grants and fellowships such as the Amol Vadehra Art Grant (2016). In 2012, she was invited to participate in Encounters, a Summer Research Academy program at The Getty Institute in Los Angeles. She was also awarded Visiting Fellowship from the Max-Planck Institute, Florence (2008), The UK Visiting Fellowship, Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections, V&A Museum in London (2010-2011) and in 2012 she was the CWIT Visiting Fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. Her research interests include the history of Indian courtly painting, art andcolonialism, historiography of ‘miniature painting’ in South Asia, the dichotomy between arts and crafts, the social history of painting, art and violence, and religious nationalism and its cultural manifestations.
The artist lives and works in Hyderabad, India.
This artist bio has been sourced from Chemould Prescott Road Artist Page on Varunika Saraf.