Women centric and contemporary, Sonal Varshneya’s etchings aim to rival the art of painting
It takes over 20 days—of etching, dipping (in acid), tinting, heating and repeating—to create a single printing plate. But artist Sonal Varshneya feels that the final artwork never gets its due, especially when pitted against paintings. “People believe it is not original because with one plate we can make at least eight prints. But our work is limited-edition and combines science and art to create something unique,” says the Lucknow-based printmaker, who is debuting in the city this month with a selection of etchings, titled The Heroine’s Last Dream.
While many artists work with monochromes and sepia, or go the labour-intensive route of preparing different plates to print different colours for a single artwork, Varshneya has spent the last eight years perfecting how to layer colours on a single sheet, achieving an opaque palette that produces complex, textured prints. “From a distance, you’ll mistake my work to be paintings, and that’s my goal—to make people see my concepts rather than just the technique,” says the 31-year-old.
Of cats and power
And her ‘concepts’ are not just pretty pictures with a dollop of quirk. Juxtaposing mythology, feminism, history and the contemporary, Varshneya calls them etched ‘selfies’—a way to save her memories and observations. “All my subjects are women. In fact, they all reflect me. I channel what I can and can’t do, what I see and believe in, into my work,” she says, adding, “I also draw a lot from our culture. Like my Photoshoot series, which has nine women, depicting the nine devis. But I’ve dressed them in modern clothes to show that they are free and powerful.” The big cats, like lions and tigers (a personal favourite and another symbol of power), crops up often in her visual landscape. “At the exhibition, you will see a mix—from prints that use Lucknowi chikankari as a background, to surreal figures of people with cats’ faces, which is inspired by my recent residency in Korea, where I was struck by their bold use of colours and the abundance of cats everywhere,” laughs the artist, who is currently working on a series based on Draupadi (“a powerful woman whose cheer haran is still repeated today”), and hopes to be back in the city with it soon.
Till July 30, at the Apparao Infinity, Nungambakkam. Details: 28332226
—Surya Praphulla Kumar