His art of living

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 10 December 2018

Kartikey Sharma, who is organising ‘Sing for Kartikey’, an exhibition of paintings with live music on December 14 in Pune, talks about his fight with cancer, how he connects with art and the concept behind the event

Kartikey Sharma began painting when he was really young. He started with crayons and over the years, started experimenting with different mediums. Today he is comfortable with acrylic, and uses ink when he makes sketches. An engineer by qualification, who quit his job to pursue painting for a living, Sharma is a ‘cancer winner.’ He was 17 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. He did get cured and led a normal life for five years but had a last stage relapse of the disease in 2016. He has been undergoing treatment since then.

The Mumbai-based artist was ranked among the top 10 graffiti artists of India. However, unfortunately, on the same day when he signed the papers for his own art startup, he was diagnosed with the last stage relapse of cancer. Today, due to his health condition, he is pursuing art on canvas. 

Sharma is organising ‘Sing for Kartikey’, an art exhibition with live music on December 14 at Ales, Brews and Ciders Brewing Company, Mulik Palace, opposite to Trump Towers, Kalyani Nagar starting at 8 pm, featuring Bollywood  playback singer Amit Mishra. The exhibition will showcase a datewise documentation of his journey in the past two and a half years — fighting and winning last stage relapsed Hodgkins lymphoma (cancer). He is also putting up his work on sale and proceedings from the event will be used for his hip replacement surgery. 

Knowing more about the Sharma and ‘Sing for Kartikey’...

Tell us about the concept behind ‘Sing for Kartikey.’ How did you think of marrying music and painting? 
Music is my second love after painting. Music and songs (lyrics/poetry) for that matter, are the most surrealistic forms of art and surrealism is my genre. Also since I always listen to music while painting, I thought of displaying them with music as well. 

How many paintings are you exhibiting at the event? What are the themes in these paintings. Are they biographical? 
I will be exhibiting 94 pieces of artwork. The theme of my work is certainly biographical but most of the artwork in this exhibition is going to be about my life after I was allowed to leave the house last February. After being confined inside the hospital and house, my life changed when I finally stepped out. I met many people and there were many experiences, I have documented them in my paintings. My work is surrealistic but it has turned more towards humans than objects since I am meeting more people now. There is a long series of portraits that I shall be exhibiting, on the people I met in the past few months.

You will also be speaking about your complete journey at the event and how your victory over cancer is inspiring others and artists in particular...
Yes, I shall be speaking about my journey for sure. It is easier for people to understand my paintings when they know where I come from. I must say that I do receive a lot of messages on social media where people tell me about how they have started doing more justice to their work after following me. They feel if I never gave up on my love for art in the worst situation, then they should also never give up, no matter how bad the situation gets. It is overwhelming to know that my passion for art has enough magic to create more artists.

How would you define your journey from being a graffiti artist to a canvas artist and the mediums you have explored? 
There are two ways to look at my journey and transformation from a graffiti artist to a canvas artist. The first is that I was left with no choice. Since I fell sick, painting walls was out of question, hence I had to turn to canvas and paper. The other way is that I am an opportunist and addicted to painting or rather expressing myself in the only language I know — art. So when there were no walls, I found myself turning to the options I had and making the most of them.

What is Hodgkins Lymphoma? Tell us a little about your health condition and your improvement. 
Hodgkins Lymphoma is a kind of cancer in which your body develops a number of nodes which are cancerous and they slowly start to overpower other cells and kill you from inside. From being diagnosed at the last stage, having no hopes of survival, 12 failed chemotherapies and almost 2 years of hospitalisation including the most painful bone marrow transplant later, I won over cancer. Unfortunately I can’t walk now. Prolonged use of necessary steroids during the cancer treatment stopped blood supply to my hips and the bone broke. It’s a condition called Avascular Necrosis. Now I am looking forward to a hip replacement surgery so that I can walk, sit and do day-to-day activities without pain. As compared to what I had to go through in the past, this would be a walk in the park. I know I will get back to climbing scaffolding and painting walls again. 

Recently you had also introduced the concept of rent an art at 1 per cent of the cost of the painting. How does this help people to get associated with art? 
This is a concept I am experimenting with. Some of the people who ask me for my paintings find it difficult to afford them. In such a scenario, the artist doesn’t feel like undervaluing his work and the art lover fails to have it with him. Renting a painting helps both the artist and the consumer as the latter has the artwork for almost free and the artist earns monthly with his artwork. So instead of the art being in the artist’s house, it is on someone else’s wall and the artist gets paid for it. It’s a win-win for both the parties. If over time, the consumer has collectively paid off the price of the painting, he owns it and the artist has made a successful sale. This way art is more affordable to people and artists too get more exposure.

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