Bangalore-based visual artist Abhigna Bararia believes that “Happiness in life balances on a delicate scale. As we are confronted with experiences good and bad, we hold the power to tip it in our favour.” What she has learnt in the past one year through her experiences with her close ones undergoing cancer treatment is to never push anything till it gets too late. “Cancer has taught me to rethink my outlook on life just by observing three people close to my life affected by this horrendous disease,” she highlights.
Most of us would have repressed our feelings about something like this, but Bararia thought of giving this experience of hers a different direction. And this is how her untitled body of work or her cancer project (as she likes to call it) took shape sometime in February last year—a series of seven illustrations that depict the varied emotions of the patients and their near and dear ones that she sensed and observed through the course of her spending time with them. The main concept for her illustrations revolves around hope, faith and transformation.
We catch up with Bararia, who tells us more about the project, the challenges she faced, her takeaway from the project, and more.
Could you tell us a little about your untitled series and what it focuses on?
The cancer project is a series of seven illustrations which depict the varied emotions of the patients and their near and dear ones that I sensed and observed through the course of my spending time with them. The main concepts for my illustrations revolve around hope, faith and transformation.
Why and what prompted you to work on a disease like cancer?
Over the past couple of years, a lot of my close ones have been victims of cancer. I’ve been to hospitals, around patients, around doctors, done courses and all of this inspired me to create art. The project was dedicated not only for those who survived cancer but also for the ones who fought hard, for the families who support and for those who are left behind.
Can you give us a timeline on when you started the series, and when did you finish?
I started this series in February 2016, and it took me around four months to finish all the seven illustrations.
Take us through your working process, please—right from collecting info to finishing the illustration for each work?
I usually take inspiration from instances or moments. For example, ‘always’ was a moment shared by a mother to her son—promising she’s there with him, through the difficulty he’s facing from the treatment. To just have someone say that to you can give strength to cope up.
‘Water’ holds endless mystery to us—it represents that which is certainly there, but cannot be seen. It has also been known to be a womb symbol and as such, an emblem of birth, fertility. Water also relaxes hence I chose water and fish as subjects for the particular artwork.
I have a fondness for symmetrical intricate line work with a lot of detail and a little chaos. I enjoy it not only for aesthetic reasons, but the process of creating such art is meditative to me. It is an ever-evolving theme in my work. My subjects are usually insects, birds, peacocks, flowers and many more. I usually like doing intricately detailed art so the viewer can sort of, get lost in the artwork.
The challenges you faced for the series—artistically or otherwise?
Being able to sense and then articulate the countless emotions that people in the process of cancer treatment go through is disturbing and hence it’s the most challenging part of creating a series such as this.
Anything that sticks out the most from everything you went through in this period—something, that might have shocked you, or touched you?
Never having experienced death before, I did not know what to think about this. I realised that even though my uncle did feel a lot of negativity initially, he fought hard to live. It’s hard to explain in any kind of words about the experience one can have while undergoing tough treatments—feeding tubes, tracheostomy tubes, chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, the part where drugs make you sick, you lose your life’s savings, you lose your mind, friendships, relationships and marriages are tested, while struggling with demons that others can’t possibly understand. All of your emotions are taken away from you, apart from sadness, anxiety and fear. It’s like being stuck inside your own body and you cannot get out!
What were the reactions of your relatives like when they saw your work?
At a certain level, they were a little taken by surprise on seeing the work. They thought I was young, yet so deep in the way, I had portrayed what I felt. Some of the biggest validation of this work did come from my family when few of them also expressed their support in featuring this work.
Could you take us through what your state of mind was like when you looked after your relatives when they were being treated?
It wasn’t a pleasant experience that I feel should be described. I hope and wish that no one has to see such times with their family. It was disturbing. But I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and a lot about how the strongest of relationships can sink with just the course of a treatment.
The things that you learnt and unlearnt from this experience?
You understand the true meaning of faith, because it’s your faith in God and hope for better days, that are challenged the most. Illustrating that on paper made me stronger and made me realise the potential of willpower, as at the end of the day, it all comes down to having strong grit and willpower.
You also have a short poem dedicated to the series—what does it mean, and what prompted you to pen it down?
The poem is as much a part of the series as any of the seven illustrations. There was just one such day that I felt that the series still had something missing and felt a strong gush of words in my mind. I penned it down and today I feel that it’s those words that really complete the series.
Living in depression all the time,
In your eyes, we see the pain.
A world full black & white,
Mets are spreading & creating the night.
Keeping the courage strong,
Fighting all along.
That future that might not come.
As battles are hard,
While you think you win.
The disease is spreading,
Death is coming!
Plans for the future?
I think just one series would render a feature incomplete and hence I’m am currently working on another series at the moment.
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Follow her Behance page here.
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