‘My work and I have changed after facing sudden deaths’

WHO: Mumbai-born and based, Acharya received her Masters in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1998 and has been showing internationally since. She was awarded the Aditya Vikram Birla Kala Kiran Puraskar and nominated for the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in 2006. Her paintings have been shown in museums, galleries and art fairs around the world.

Dhruvi Acharya 40, Artist
Dhruvi Acharya, 40, Artist, Photo: Soumik Mukherjee

An incident that changed or formed your artistic vision?
I began painting my memories of home soon after moving to the US in 1995. I was homesick for Mumbai. I realised I loved painting and decided to do my Masters — a huge learning curve. I continue to draw (pun intended) from my life experiences. My work is an emotional diary.
What is the one feeling you’ve never been able to translate into art but wish you could?
Love. It is hard to paint about love without the work looking mawkishly sentimental.
What’s been your greatest moment of distress and fear?
Distress — when I lost my best friend and wonderful life partner of 16 years (and very talented filmmaker) Manish Acharya in an accident in December 2010. Fear — March 2010, on a plane back after my New York solo show, wondering if my father was alive. He wasn’t.
In your deepest relationships, which is the one demon you’re grappling with?
Fear—of bodily harm, disease and death of my loved ones.
Energy efficient Requiem by Dhruvi Acharya
Energy-efficient: Requiem by Dhruvi Acharya

You paint an undercurrent of violence in women’s lives.
We’re part of a world that is still unfair to women — from a general lack of respect in society, the teasing and molesting, to unequal pay and low priority for girls’ education, to marital violence, rape, the killing of the girl child and human trafficking — women, in general, still have to live with fear even as the world is supposedly progressing.
What part has your personal tragedy and loss played in your life and art?
My life, my work and I have forever changed after having to face sudden death. Learning to live this new life, with the constant heartache and awareness of death, is extremely difficult. Yet I am aware of how lucky I still am. I am also acutely aware of the transient nature of everything in life. I think my new work reflects this.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.