A telling tale

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Varunika Saraf’s painting exhibition at Kashi Art Gallery is a pictorial narrative about conflict

Varunika Saraf is telling a story through images, her show rightly called ‘Tales of Our Times’. On at Kashi Art Gallery, Mattancherry, her pictorial narrative is about conflict, here between man and nature. Told in human and animal figures, in plants, leaves and flowers the paintings are dioramic in detail.

The forests, the foliage and the flowers are painted delicately, conveying their fragility. The eco-system of animals and plants is pitted against an insensitive race of men, in conflict even among themselves.

Though the subject is a harsh reality the canvases are not hard on the eye. In fact the woods, the trees full of flowers and fruits, rich with birds and animals the paintings are visually appealing.

A series of three small works show how horrific man made war tramples upon innocent peoples and their pride, upon other living creatures, the fish and fowl.

Man mows down man along with nature. It is this arrogance of man that the artist is condemning.

Two big canvases, ‘After Brecht’s ‘you can’t write poems about trees, when the woods are full of policemen’ is a telling comment, severe in tone but gentle in execution.

It is as if Saraf is pushing the knife but with a smile. Her accusation is severe, her gentle style making it almost vitriolic.


Saraf’s technique draws attention. Her use of ‘kalamkari’ (floral prints in vegetable dyes) cloth in some of her works is novel and adds to the overall collage of images.

Done on rice paper, pasted on canvas, her images flow on to the sides of the work, imparting a sense of freedom and flow, of growth and fruition. But it is this freedom that is stunted when men in conflict tread on Nature.

The tree is the overpowering symbol, symbolising natural life. It is literally the Tree of life that Saraf is celebrating. Man is the second most important symbol.

Wherever he has allowed Nature to take its natural course he is full-bodied, full blooded, but where he cuts trees, poaches animals, burns wood, man is represented as lifeless, shrivelled and black.

Black Rain, a work in scarlet red has central figure of a woman, under a luxuriant green canopy of trees. But the rain drops that fall and drench her are black. Saraf could not have told the tale of our times better than this.





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