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Anoushka Bhalla

Anoushka Bhalla's practice explores existence through visual research into the materialization of collective trauma and the decay of collective intergenerational memory. Her art, vacillating between the abstract and the representational, is derived from historical archives of ethnic cleansing within the wider global landscape and her homeland of South Asia. Born out of histories of bodily trauma, the loom of death and the spectacle of genocide as seen through memories of ancestral massacres, local and global holocausts, histories of slavery, lynching and other modes of violences, I engage with art-making to contend with the loss of my ancestors who were martyred to these forgotten bloodbaths.

​Using symbolically charged, primordial and archaeological elements like terracotta, charcoal, ash, dirt, shellac that symbolise history and the passage of time, the imagery in my work addresses lynching rituals, burial and mortuary practices, landscapes in the wake of destruction and portraits of colonial bodies evoking the collective unconscious of a traumatic past.

How would you describe/define yourself?

I am Anoushka Bhalla, a visual artist residing in New York City. My identity is intricately
woven into the fabric of my art, which serves as a conduit for introspection, catharsis, and a
profound exploration of the human experience. Formerly on the path to becoming a
medical surgeon, the stark realities of surgery and encounters with cadavers compelled me
to reflect on the essence of death. This introspection led me to a transformative journey
into the realm of art, a departure from the stoicism instilled by my medical training.
My creative expression spans various mediums, including fine art, film, and writing,
reflecting a multidisciplinary approach. Whether through drawings characterized by furious
strokes and raw rendering rooted in mark-making, or through symbolic installations
enforcing existential philosophies, my works are marked by a rough, violent treatment of
the medium.
The core of my artistic practice revolves around an existential exploration of individual and
collective afflictions, histories of institutional violence, and the intersections between
personal and collective memories. My art serves as a humanist endeavor, contributing to
the larger discourse on trauma, decay, and death. It is an ongoing dialogue with the
complexities of the human condition, a reflection on the sensuousness of the human flesh,
the nature of grief and violence, and the passage of time. Through my work, I strive to
illuminate overlooked histories and foster a deeper understanding of the profound
capacities and vulnerabilities inherent in our shared humanity.
In essence, I am an artist who finds purpose in shedding light on marginalized narratives,
ensuring the enduring remembrance of overlooked histories, and fostering a dialogue that
resonates beyond borders and cultures.

When and why did you decide to choose painting designing as a career? 

The decision to pursue painting and design as my career was not a singular moment but
rather a gradual evolution rooted in a series of experiences and realizations. Originally on
the path to becoming a medical surgeon, the stress, long hours, and constant burnout in
medical school prompted me to reevaluate my trajectory.
My heart had always been drawn to the arts, with a deep-rooted interest in history, art
history, and literature from my childhood. The shift to literature was a natural step, driven
by a desire to align my academic pursuits with my true passions. However, life took an
unexpected turn when I was fortunate enough to be accepted into India top art school.
This fortuitous opportunity marked a turning point, leading me to explore the world of
visual arts more deeply. The switch from literature to art felt like a natural progression,
aligning with a lifelong passion that had been quietly nurtured over the years. There wasn't

a specific moment but rather a culmination of experiences and realizations that led me to
embrace painting and design as my chosen career path.

What according to you is a favorite part of being a Paint Artist?

Painting allows me to communicate in a language that goes beyond words, delving into the
visceral and the symbolic. a form of catharsis, an intimate dialogue with the materials
and the canvas.
The process of layering pigments, manipulating textures, and working with experimental
elements like terracotta, ash, and carbon is deeply gratifying. The heavy impasto in my
paintings, reminiscent of relief sculptures, adds a tactile dimension that invites viewers to
engage not just visually but also sensorially.
The act of painting enables me to confront and navigate complex themes such as the impact
of historical legacies. a meditative journey where introspection meets the tangible
creation of visual narratives and the freedom to vacillate between the abstract and the
representational allows me to challenge conventional perspectives and offer a space for

What inspires you as an Artist? How do you visualize your muses?

As an artist, I draw inspiration from a multitude of sources that collectively shape and enrich
my creative practice. One significant wellspring of inspiration is rooted in the exploration of
historical archives. Beyond historical narratives, my inspiration emanates from a fusion of
literature, philosophy, personal experiences, political landscapes, and institutional histories.
These diverse influences converge in a multidimensional exploration of the human
condition. Visualizing my muses involves an immersive engagement with the subject matter.
Whether rendering the human body in two or three dimensions or creating installations
laden with symbolism, I aim to capture the essence of the narratives I seek to convey. In
essence, my muses are the stories that history has overlooked, the collective memories that
demand remembrance, and the ongoing dialogue between the personal and the collective.
The interplay of materials, themes, and historical contexts serves as a dynamic source of
inspiration, propelling my artistic journey and contributing to the broader discourse on

What’s your signature painting element? And why?

My signature painting element is the deliberate juxtaposition of experimental materials with
traditional ones like oil and acrylic. These elements, such as terracotta, mulch, dirt, ash ad
carbon hold profound symbolic significance in my work, representing history and the
inexorable passage of time. Each material carries layers of meaning, adding depth to the

narratives I aim to explore. They symbolize the tangible presence of time, echoing the
resilience of narratives that may have been buried but are not forgotten. For example,
Carbon, with its elemental significance, ties into the broader themes of decay and the
cyclical nature of life and death. It becomes a marker of both destruction and regeneration,
mirroring the complex interplay of historical legacies and the resilience of the human spirit.
The choice of these primordial elements is not arbitrary; rather, it is a deliberate attempt to
infuse my paintings with a tangible connection to history and the shared human experience.
These materials become conduits for storytelling, allowing me to articulate the
materialization of collective trauma and the decay of intergenerational memory.
The heavy impasto in my paintings, characterized by the pronounced use of these symbolic
elements, creates a textured surface that invites tactile engagement. This signature painting
element serves as a bridge between the conceptual and the sensorial, enhancing the overall
impact of my visual narratives.

The painting you created are best without any doubt, but who and which things were your inspiration while creating such painting?  

Literature plays a crucial role in influencing my creative practice. Authors such as Judith
Herman, Mark Fisher, Paul Celan, Osamu Dazai, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Franz Kafka, and
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have contributed to the conceptual dimensions of my work. Their
writings delve into themes of trauma, existentialism, and the complexities of human
experience, providing a rich tapestry of ideas that find expression in my visual narratives.
Visual artists have also left an indelible mark on my artistic journey. Figures like Anselm
Kiefer, Anish Kapoor, Rashid Johnson, Zhang Huan, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Marlene Dumas,
Frank Auerbach, Hermann Nitsch, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Kathe Kollwitz, Alberto Burri,
Adrian Ghenie, and Gerhard Richter, among others, have influenced my approach to form,
texture, and the integration of symbolic elements in my paintings.

What’s the best piece of artistic advice you’ve heard? And do you follow it?

The best piece of artistic advice ve heard is to embrace vulnerability and authenticity in creative expression. It underscores the importance of staying true to one unique
voice, exploring personal narratives, and allowing genuine emotions to permeate the artistic
process. I wholeheartedly embrace this advice in my artistic practice. Authenticity is
paramount in my explorations. By delving into the emotional and conceptual depths of my
practice, I aim to create work that resonates with the visceral and authentic experiences of
both myself and those who engage with my art.

As we all know job of a painter is very tough. So how do you keep your mental and physical health fit?

Navigating the demands of a painter profession requires a mindful approach to both
mental and physical well-being. Maintaining a balanced schedule is essential. This involves
allocating specific time for painting, research, and personal activities. Recognizing the
intensity of painting sessions, I make it a point to take regular breaks. Stepping away from
the canvas not only prevents physical strain but also allows for mental refreshment,
fostering renewed creativity. Moreover, connecting with fellow artists and the broader
creative community is enriching to me. Sharing experiences, insights, and support creates a
sense of camaraderie, counteracting any potential isolation associated with the solitary
nature of artistic pursuits.
Beyond these routines, I discover comfort and revitalization through two activities that hold
special significance for me. Cooking serves as a meditative outlet, enabling me to unwind
from the rigors of painting. Engaging in reading, particularly amidst nature, offers a
revitalizing experience, offering an escape and deepening my connection with the natural

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career and hoping to make it big as a Paint Artist? 

For those embarking on a career as an Artist with aspirations of making a significant impact,
my advice would be to cultivate a distinctive artistic voice. Take the time to explore and
develop a unique perspective that sets your work apart. Dedicate yourself to continuous
learning, embracing the lifelong journey of artistic exploration. Build a strong foundation in
the fundamentals of art. Seek constructive criticism from peers and mentors to refine your
craft. Network and engage with the artistic community, attend exhibitions, and connect
with fellow artists. Stay true to your vision, be open to challenges as opportunities for
growth, and maintain consistency in promoting your work through various platforms.
Balancing passion with practicality is crucial, understanding both the artistic and business
aspects of the field.

To whom would you like to give credits of your journey till now?

The credits for my artistic journey thus far are undoubtedly shared among my supportive
family and inspirational mentors in the field. My family has been the bedrock of
encouragement, fostering my passion for the arts since childhood. Their unwavering
support provided me the freedom to explore and pursue my creative instincts. Additionally,
I owe a debt of gratitude to my mentors in the art world, whose guidance and insights have
played a pivotal role in shaping my artistic voice. Their mentorship has been a source of

inspiration, challenging me to push boundaries and continually evolve in my artistic practice.
The synergy between familial support and mentorship has been instrumental in my journey
as an artist.

Anything you wish to share or quote in your interview?

Absolutely, I often find solace and guidance in the words of Ray Bradbury Don’t think.
Thinking is the enemy of creativity. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
This quote serves as a constant reminder to embrace the spontaneous, trust my instincts, and
let the creative process unfold organically. Overthinking can impede the flow of creativity,
and this quote has been a guiding principle in my artistic journey, encouraging me to immerse
myself in the act of creation without the constraints of overanalysis.


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