“Varunika Saraf’s paintings in The Chair in the Cloud– her second solo show- are not necessarily evocations of a particular time and place but are more like poetic visions in which the land and its people act as catalysts for her imagination. They breathe with a fresh light and air, even when they seem enmeshed in webs of signs and symbols that are full of cryptic complexities. As a result, the compositions may be inscrutable one moment and readable in several ways, another…On Show is a suite of works that can be handled and passed around for closer viewing, as were miniature paintings in the past, their small scale contributing to their intimacy and impact.
Dominating the show are Saraf’s large-scale watercolours on rice paper pasted on cloth, in which she infuses her art with a breath of narrative spirit that Modernism’s formal and conceptual tendencies have long discouraged. These larger works that can stretch up to 6’ x 6’ or more, physically draw the viewer into landscape of lapping water, silver raindrops, whispering forests and rolling clouds that cast long shadows over hills and valleys…One imagines the artist layering and re-layering her colours to achieve some of her luminous surfaces with their painterly richness and diffusions. This is in contrast to the more austere, liner style of her often overlaid drawings with their vestigial under-images. Figures like these, seem to be suspended between physical and immaterial existence as they float weightlessly and often transparently across markings and textures gravid with hidden meanings: rhetorically loaded yet enigmatic in implication. Mystical and metaphysical traditions linger in these large works which sometimes appear as if viewed from a long distance or high vantage point as in Safavid paintings”.
Kamala Kapoor, Catalogue Essay, The Chair in the Cloud, 2010