Art is not just about painting. Art is everything. Art is an excellent medium to touch sensitive topics, especially, the ones that people do not talk about at all,” says Kartikey Sharma, a painter and cancer survivor, who is displaying his collection ‘Canvas Against Cancer’ comprising 34 original paintings and about 80 prints at The Monalisa Kalagram, Koregaon Park, Pune, till April 19, between 10 am and 8 pm.
Sharma began painting when he was really young and started with crayons. Over the years, he has experimented with different mediums. “Today, I am very comfortable with acrylic and I use ink when I make sketches,” says Sharma who is an engineer by qualification but quit his job to pursue painting for a living.
‘Canvas Against Cancer’ was earlier displayed by his friends at the French Window, Koregaon Park, when Sharma was not in a position to leave his home. The show received an overwhelming response. Giving us a peek into his ongoing show, he says, “It is basically the past two years of my life and the treatment I have been undergoing that I have put in the form of paintings. The artworks were made during the treatment period, hence they are special. Pune has seen my work mostly on the walls but this series is absolutely different.”
His paintings are inspired by blood cells because they have been the most important factor in his treatment. Thousands and millions of these tiny cells complete the image. He mostly plays with surrealism and abstract art. “These paintings basically express how I felt on a particular day. You will notice the gradual increase of cells in my work depicting their importance and the respect I pay to the stem cells transplant I had to undergo when my mother donated her cells,” he says.
Sharma says that cancer treatment is a really long journey. Although his treatment isn’t over yet, he still prefers to be known as a cancer winner. He was 17 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. “I did get cured and led a normal life for five years but had a last stage relapse of Hodgkins lymphoma in 2016. I have been undergoing treatment since then. The first year of cancer was painful and uncomfortable. We had no clue about the cure and there was no hope for survival. I imagined a different world in my head which made me sketch and paint constantly. I felt accomplished every time I finished an artwork and this feeling of accomplishment kept me going,” says Sharma.
Ask him if his paintings can help and motivate others who are suffering from cancer to stay strong during the tough phase and he says that he is not sure if his art will have that kind of an influence on people but the fact that he never gave up painting has inspired others. “I gave one of my paintings to the hospital and everybody saw me paint and sketch during my stay in the hospital. The fact that I was so determined to keep doing what I loved inspired a lot of young kids and a few elders to get through this tough phase,” he says.
For the young artist, painting is not just about aesthetics. It’s much more. “I have spent most of my art career painting walls, mostly public walls. I always considered it to be the best way to touch a large number of people and to convey a message or at least ignite a spark towards the topics that are considered taboos. Sometimes we are so ignorant that we don’t even know what topics to give importance to and a lot of time, artists do this job for us. I have seen many artists going totally unconventional and making artwork questioning the basic ideologies. For instance, Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings had models who were sex workers but he painted them in the form of goddesses and also a certain caste of people who were not allowed to enter the temple could finally worship their gods in the form of paintings and prints outside the temples. So art has already been doing this job very efficiently since a long time,” he points out.