Varvara Shavrova


Varvara Shavrova (b. 1968) has lived and worked in Moscow, London, Beijing and Dublin where she is currently based. She studied at Moscow Polygraphic Institute (Fine Art) and MFA at Goldsmith College, London. She works in a wide range of media including photography, video, installation, site-specific works, curatorial projects and performance. She explores the archival elements of personal and family history within the Big History. She is also interested in the questions multiculturalism, identity, gender and geopolitics. Her work is cross-cultural and touches geographical borders.

Shavrova’s recent projects include Inna’s Dream solo exhibition at Patrick Heide Contemporary Art (2019), and Mapping Fates, multi-media installation in Lenin’s apartment in St. Petersburg (2017). Shavrova’s project The Opera received international acclaim and includes photography, sound and video installations, shown at The Temple Beijing (2016), Momentum Berlin (2016), the Gallery of Photography Ireland (2014), the Venice Biennale of Architecture (2014) and at Espacio Cultural El Tanque in Tenerife (2011).

Shavrova has done more than 20 solo exhibitions and curatorial projects in London, Dublin, Los Angeles, Berlin, Frankfurt, Moscow, St. Petersburgh, Shanghai and Beijing. She has received a number of awards including a fellowship from Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ireland, British Council Visual Artists' Awards, Dublin City Council Visual Arts Award, and received Culture Ireland awards for her solo exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai and Berlin, and British Council award for individual artists. Shavrova curated international visual arts projects, including The Sea is Limit exhibition at York Art Gallery (2018) and at Virginia Commonwealth University Art Qatar Gallery in Doha (2019), examining migration, borders and refugee crisis, and Map Games: Dynamics of Change, international art and architecture project at Today Art Museum Beijing, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, CAOS Centre for Contemporary Arts, Terni, Italy (2008-2010).

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Inna's Dream

Shavrova’s practice is focused on excavating the layers of her family’s history through the process of remembering, recalling, retracing and re-enacting stories. In engaging memory, nostalgia and reflection, Shavrova create installations that make connections between historic and current narratives, between the archival and the present. In her work, Shavrova examines the symbols of power and authority whilst investigating their relationship to the individual. The process of empathy is the means of materializing the past into the present. The materiality of Shavrova’s installations is a comment on women’s labour, and include objects made of paper, thread, yarn and fabric, with methodologies of drawing, carpet making, loom weaving, embroidery and knitting.

In the installation, Shavrova reinterprets the first Soviet amphibious aeroplane designed by her great uncle in 1930s. The demilitarised and domesticized version of a deflated military machine echoes the collapsed Soviet dream of the powerful and the ‘high flying’. The infantile giant toy kit becomes symbolic of capitulated militarism that challenges the core symbols of masculinity and power.



Opera is an insight into the fragile work of the Peking Opera, one of the most revered artforms of the Chinese national scene.

The work focuses on the transformations from male to female, and from female to male, of the Peking Opera artists. Balancing moments of pure visuality with behind the scenes footage, the video underscores striking avantgardist qualities of this most traditional artforms.

Opera is accompanied by a specially commissioned score by composer Benoit Granier which incorporates elements of traditional Chinese and contemporary electronic music.

For more videos of Opera, please go to Varvara's Vimeo account.



Untouched is a photographic and multimedia artwork that identifies common strands of experience in China's capital Beijing and a rural community in Ireland.

Varvara brings an unusual perspective to this seemingly paradoxical quest. She divides her time between her two homes, one in a rural area of Ireland's west coast, the other in a traditional 'hutong' in Beijing. Using both visual and audiovisual frameworks, she juxtaposes and compares the lives of these two local communities, and highlights the fascinating similarities in what determines how lives are led in two very different cultural and social environments.

The project focuses on the physical and social changes that Beijing and its population are experiencing in preparation for the coming Olympic Games. It is rare for any artist to have the opportunity to carry out a project of this nature in such depth and breadth in China. Shavrova started working on the project when she first came to China in 2004. Since then she has had opportunity to study the lives of the Beijing hutongs, and compare them to her experience of living in rural Ireland.

In contrast to the still photography, Shavrova’s video work concentrates on the people and their stories. Shot in a documentary style, the video conjures up a compelling story of personal experiences and creates vivid portraits of local neighbourhoods and its people, both on the brink of extinction. Please see below for the trailer for the work: