Through the Other Lens of One Rule

Tanya Chaturvedi | January 20, 2024 | Art

Governing cornerstones of varied disciplines, Maya Varadaraj, indulges in explorations of painting, drawing, installations while frequenting in collages. The New York-based artist echoes voices of South Asia and South Asian diaspora through her presentations. Varadaraj’s work strings of uncovering material-cultures and heritage, revitalising and repositioning value systems in place for centuries. The lexicon of aesthetic inspiring Varadaraj’s work resonates with those known to distant households, inculcating a dimension of familiarity, for all to enjoy.

Ranging from vintage advertisements, popular calendar illustrations, and classic image-making techniques, form the group reflections of media that can be traced back in Varadaraj’s display. The Rhode Island School of Design and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago played crucial roles in enhancing Maya Varadaraj’s portfolio. She received her early education from renowned institutions and went on to umbrella multiple solo exhibitions in Chicago and Jersey city.

Station 1 + Station 2 + Station 3, Khandayati exhibit
Photo by Jonathan Allen

Her intellect and deep understanding of culture earns her a huge credit in simplifying and addressing complex societal structures to produce art in exciting re-frames. Varadaraj’s exhibit ‘Khandayati’— a sanskrit word meaning ‘to break’, discusses the dichotomy and representation resulting from oppressive traditions and objects against women. Channelling towards the world as a visual response and commentary, for all to reflect and carry. The exhibit curates a vision of deliberate shattering of glass bangles worn by women in India, standing for liberation from weakness. A symbolic dialect.

(L-R) Adequate and Suitable; Perfect Ball Of Hot Plasma; We Don’t Need To See
Acrylic on Canvas

In one of her recent explorations through acrylic media, Maya Varadaraj challenges and provokes thoughts through her paintings, recording correspondences between her focus subjects as two individuals– interacting and evolving, and later foraying into interrelations within a group. The use of black against beige and yellow tones creates an elaborate contrast, forming a visual map that indicates and directs a viewer as intended by Varadaraj. This clever play of simplicity wrapped in layers of provocation is titled– We Don’t Need To See, In This Moment, When You’re Ready, and Adequate and Suitable. The titles suggests an interplay between the two individuals and state of mind, emotionally and physically through their interaction. Varadaraj also goes on to represent the two individuals in their singularity, under the title banners of ‘Perfect Ball Of Hot Plasma’ and ‘When The Skies Cry’. The unique choice of titles propels a viewer to think about the individuality of the two people in focus, and the shift in dynamics that takes place when they come together. However, no order for the paintings is specified, but the use of atypical subject matter and titles seizes one to weave a narrative, of one’s own liking, credited to the relatability and honesty with which the artist renders the story.

Her Hair Tangled in the Undone Threads
Watercolour and Print on Paper

Maya Varadaraj’s work is celebrated for its proficiency and has gained recognition globally. Exhibited internationally at Vitra Design Museum, Aicon Contemporary, India Art Fair, Sapar Contemporary, Museo Del Disseny Barcelona, Nature Morte, Salone De Mobile, Mana Contemporary, and Medium Tings, among others, Maya is also due credited for multiple awards, fellowships, features and lectures. Varadaraj’s work and thought commits to the appetite she has for her culture and interpersonal relationships which also flares as the need of the hour, mirrored in her work.

Words by Tanya Chaturvedi.
Image courtesy Maya Varadaraj.

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