Turning the harsh pandemic experiences into body art
The pandemic has forced us, as individuals and as a collective, to face parts of ourselves that we haven’t had before. Whether it’s to explore dormant passions and desires, or to provide space for inner reflection and growth in the face of devastating loss and uncertainty. Over the past year or so, it has gradually started showing up in body art.
The body art industry, which was hugely successful during last year’s lockdowns, has seen people approach artists with concepts, ideas, and designs they ruminated on during this time of transformation. Such creative collaboration results in intricate and intentional tattoos, which bear great personal significance to both artists and clients.
Symbol of hope
âThe concepts that people have brought to me recently include rising from their ashes, overcoming hardships and enjoying the finer things in life,â says Esha Varpe, a dentist turned tattoo artist who co-runs Moths and Owls Tattoo Studio in Mumbai. Varpe is known for her custom designs that feature a rich use of symbols drawn from nature. Dragonflies, peonies and phoenixes are among those who stand out in his repertoire.
Among her clientele is Anita Prasad, a 35-year-old management professional whose personal life took some painful turns during the pandemic. âI came out of an abusive marriage last year and my mental health suffered tremendously over the following months,â she says. “I was so depressed that I started to consider suicide, I thought my whole life was over.”
Getting a tattoo was one of the many things Prasad did on the road to recovery. The design on his forearm features a butterfly, the Tibetan word for faith, and a heron in flight under the sun as well as the moon. âThese symbols represent my endurance, my faith in God and my deep love for life. Every time I look at them they remind me that I can overcome any difficulty in my path, âshe says.
Permanence and change
The pandemic has also given many people time to make decisions on long-standing tentative tattoo plans. UK-based dancer and cognitive neuroscientist Kohinoor Darda got a tattoo in September to symbolize contrasting aspects of her identity. The design features the sun and moon, heart and brain, and a symbolic representation of the Ardhanarishwara (the androgynous form of Shiva and Shakti).
While the design itself represents wholeness and duality, for her the act of tattooing itself carries multiple layers of meaning. âIt allows me to see my body as a work of art, as a simple material. Doing so strengthened my authority over my own body. And that represents yet another duality, that of permanence and change, âsays Darda.
Also read: The healing touch of tattoos
Indeed, while tattoos are considered a serious investment given that they are permanent, realizing the fleeting nature of life itself seems to have inspired people to get designs. that appeal to them without caring too much about their deeper meanings. Karthik Bengre, artist and owner of Sculp Tattoos in Bengaluru, recently started creating designs featuring insects and claims that several of his clients have expressed their fascination with the work and have even been inked with these designs over the past few years. month.
Mourning and memory
Bengre also receives clients who request portraits, names and souvenir illustrations to commemorate loved ones they lost during years of the pandemic. âI had a client who lost his grandmother during the pandemic, and while he was in mourning he began to notice that a ladybug was constantly following him. He began to associate the ladybug with his grandmother. The symbol became a source of strength for him, reminding him that she was always with him in spirit, so he got her tattooed, âhe says.
âSymbolism is a great way to tap into the essence of an experience. By thinking about what a person, memory or idea might look like as beings or symbols in nature, we can find what we resonate with, âsays Vani Subramaniam, a counseling psychologist based in Bengaluru, adding thatâ such tattoos help us transform wisdom. , learning and evolving ourselves into the art that we wear on our body.
Also read: “My body is a feminist question”