A Refreshing Rebel: Anushka Bhatnagar Is All About Breaking Barriers

  Dhaara Thakkar 557 Views Comments

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We waited in her quaint drawing room, admiring her paintings. They already gave us a glimpse of her personality – she’s definitely someone who’s fun-loving and very deep and philosophical at the same time. And as she entered, with fiery red hair and a million dollar smile pasted across her face, a voice inside our heads confirmed, “there you go, that’s Anushka Bhatnagar for you!”.

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They say first impressions matter, because that’s what establishes a picture of you in others’ minds. Through our conversation with Anushka, she confirmed that fact. She lives and breathes her art, which is reflected even through her wardrobe. And it showcases very aptly, who she is – refreshing, different, strong…someone who wants to break barriers and notions. Anushka’s a true rebel, but not a rebel without a cause. On the contrary, she has some serious points to make through her art.

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Here’s how the eclectic artist revealed her thoughts on art, fashion and her personal style:

WM: When did art begin for you? And how?

AB: I have been a painter since I was about 2 years old. My parents told me that they saw me go through that entire creative knack, you know when kids are given material to paint and things like that. I was too much into it. And since they saw that, they let me cultivate it. Apparently, my teachers say that I was the youngest kid in my school to go for these inter-school competitions – I started taking part in competitions when I was in kindergarten. But I never realized the importance of art until I came into the 7th grade. Till then it was just a hobby, but once I was in the 7th grade, I realized that this is exactly what I want to do – I want to be a painter. Over the years, art started to grow on me, and I’ve come to a conclusion now, that it is actually a lifestyle for me. I enjoy playing with colours, even wearing them. Not just on my clothes, but even something like, I would be working on a painting and suddenly feel like I can do something on my arms or face, and there, I’d have art onto me.

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WM: You seem to go equally experimental and artsy in the way you dress too. What’s the story behind that?

AB: I don’t like to be the common person – if there’s a herd of sheep, I’d like to be the goat over there. I don’t understand the concept of being like everyone else. You know when I meet people and they ask me about what I do and I tell them that I’m a painter, they say, “Wow, that’s so different”. So then I feel like I should bring in that ‘wow’ factor into my daily life as well, like in the way I dress. Hence, the colour of my hair, hence the crazy jewellery.

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I haven’t ever taken reference from someone else when it comes to fashion. I follow the same creative thought pattern when it comes to picking my outfits, and even fabrics. I would look for vibrant colours, mix and match them. A lot of people have this notion – “If I wear this, what will others feel?” I don’t think like that. I would instead pick something and think that people are going to go like “Wow, what is she wearing!” That’s the basic approach I have towards my clothes and accessories.

WM: Your wardrobe has caught our attention already. We’d like to delve in deeper.

AB: I won’t say that my wardrobe is very versatile. It’s very basic, but I try to make the most of it with the basics. When I’m home, I’m usually in a pair of shorts and my T-shirt. But, even a plain grey T-shirt, I like to stylize it, pair it up with high-waisted pants or palazzos, or vintage boyfriend jeans. My wardrobe majorly comprises of basic ethnic wear. I don’t go gaga over Indian clothes, since I don’t like too much detailing.

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My black leggings are a must. I love wearing leggings. And then I pair those up with a kurta or tie a knot on a baggy T-shirt and wear that. Sometimes, I also rummage through my dad’s wardrobe and borrow his shirts to go with my leggings.

I don’t usually wear things in my neck, but if at all, I would go in for statement necklaces. I love wearing rings, but then since I’m a painter, and my hands are almost always immersed in paint, I’ve stopped wearing rings. So, now I enjoy wearing earrings – I would wear hoops in my second piercing and studs in my first – because no one does that, so it looks unique. I also love wearing head gear

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WM: Take us through your art, your inspiration, everything.

AB: Ever since I started to paint, I was taught and trained to observe and paint. That did work in my favour quite a bit, but it also turned out slightly to be a disadvantage because somewhere down the line I feel that it took away from me, my main ability to think for myself. And I realized that only recently, in the past one year I’ve started to paint whatever comes to me naturally. Few paintings, though, definitely have too much thought that has gone into them, and there’s a lot of emotion involved.

But my attraction towards art is mainly with females. I take inspiration from the female body, I make a lot of nudes.

2WM: So, from what we’ve noticed, your art is about breaking conventions. Tell us more.

AB: Yes, now people have this notion right that someone who’s dressed in very good attire, is someone you can go speak to. Now what’s happening is that we’re conditioned into thinking in this manner. And I want to decondition it, so in my artwork I avoid making the face. That way, I’m breaking free from the conditioning that one can be judged from their face or something can be judged based on their face value, or just the appearance.

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I also want to create that kind of acceptance for the human body, because there’s a lot of body shaming happening these days. The message I want to convey is that whatever body you are in, just accept it. Wear clothes that you feel confident in. There are a lot of times when certain pieces we wear may not look good on us, but then, it also depends on how we carry them, and if we’re comfortable, they’ll always look good. So, through my art, I want to project that confidence, comfort and acceptance towards one’s body.

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WM: Your favourite art movement or anything that’s deeply inspired you?

AB: I believe that the revolution period that started post 60’s was very important. The revolutions took place in such a manner that there was a revolt against all things creative – which led to newer creations and forms of art, be it graffiti or abstractism, or even expressionism that consequently came up. And that’s all amazing, but being an artist what really appeals to me is everything pre-60’s. People back then did not have the actual knowledge of art, but they worked with colours and experimented to create things firsthand. Now that’s something that is commendable. Modern day artists are only able to create such art after they have seen what, for example, Michelangelo, created and how he created it. Those forefathers who created this base for us is very important, but I think in the past century, that level of respect for them has reduced slightly. I’m not saying it’s gone completely, but it surely has reduced.

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So it’s those artists for whom I have immense respect. Going forward, I take inspiration from any and every little thing – not saying I copy it, but take reference, like I take reference from my work and use it in my wardrobe. Same way, I take reference from my daily experiences, and incorporate the inspiration into my art.

WM: So, you wanted to be an artist, you are one. You wanted to break notions, your art powerfully does that. Now, what’s next?

AB: I want to get into restoration and conservation of Indian artwork. I feel that Indian artwork needs to be given more importance than it is being given now. Because of natural causes, the work is being destroyed, so we need to find better ways of conserving it and restoring it. All around the world, people are really proud about the different kind of art that belongs to their country.In India, where something as important as Kama sutra is considered a taboo, people need to start to realize that it is really only a beautiful art form and not something that must be looked down upon.People from all over the world are going crazy in trying to understand how someone from our world could come up with something like that. For example, the sculptures in Khajuraho temples were made way before Michelangelo was even born. So much importance is given to that man, who was indeed a genius and created something amazing, but what about those artisans here, who made those sculptors with perhaps no prior knowledge of any kind of art. So, I want to get into restoration and conserve these pieces and apply my knowledge as being a skilled painter, to that.

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Shot and edited by Madhurjya Saikia for WODROB.