Thomas Mann's 20 century landmark novel, The Magic Mountain, has inspired a series of paintings by Chicago-based artist Deborah Boardman. She is in India to showcase her work at the Swasti Art Gallery in Bengaluru. However, the exhibition is not all about the artist. The gallery, which is the art arm of the HCG Foundation, one of South Asia's largest cancer care networks, has been working with a variety of artists from across the world to raise awareness of the role of arts in society. Deborah Boardman as well as other artists who feature their work at Swasti donate their paintings to the gallery to raise funds for the HCG Foundation.

Deborah Boardman was able to get cancer patients to cooperate with her and be her muses for her recent work. Her exhibition, titled ‘Magic Mountain – Portraits and Patterns' reflects the theme of Mann's novel set in a tuberculosis sanatorium based in Switzerland. A discussion of the work published in 1953 quotes Mann as saying, “…one must go through the deep experience of sickness and death to arrive at a higher sanity and health …”. As such, Boardman's paintings are a celebration of individuals fighting cancer or surviving it.

The paintings hang against wallpaper on which the artist has recreated patterns she sees on the clothes people wear in India. The wallpaper, then, is a vibrant backdrop for the subject of disease that is prominent in the paintings. The overall effect is, therefore, not dark and dreary, but reflective of the survival instinct and the will to live. While entry is free for visitors to the exhibition, it is undeniably an encouragement to the patients at HCG Foundation. The gallery aims to raise funds for cancer care by selling art at aggressive prices.

Bottomline: An inspiring portrayal of terminal illness through art

Swasti Art Gallerye, HCG Tower 1, No.8, Kalinga Rao Road, Sampangi Ram Nagar, Bengaluru, Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Till February 10.