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Artist dips his brush in his own blood to pay tributes to the country’s greats and their sacrifices

Artist using own blood as a dye for the sketches

It’s truly a labour of blood and sweat for Sangamesh Bagli. The 52-year-old drawing teacher from Jamkhandi has painted a stupendous 325 paintings and portraits, using his own blood as dye for the sketches. Sangamesh Bagli, employed with a state-run high school at Hosur village, and a resident of Jamkhandi town, stands apart from other professional painters for his choice of medium. Though he’s also done thousands of paintings in regular colours, he says his sketches in blood have left many people, including elected representatives and bureaucrats, speechless.

Sangamesh has used his blood to paint portraits of social reformers from the 12th century to the 21st century, freedom fighters who lived between 1857 and 1947, Bharat Ratna awardees, scientists, sports personalities and politicians, besides theme-based paintings on social issues. Sangamesh says he needs at least 15ml of blood for each portrait, and over 20ml for theme-based paintings. He and his family members claim that the loss of blood has never made him ill. After drawing blood for a painting, he takes a day to complete a portrait.

It was a Kannada movie on the life of freedom fighter Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna in 2012 that drove him to use his own blood for paintings. “The storyline of this movie revolves around the sacrifices made by our ancestors in order to get Independence from the British. Thousands of freedom fighters gave their blood and life for this country. This movie inspired me to give a fresh and different approach to my paintings,” he told The New Sunday Express.

“If we are walking freely today, it’s only because of the sacrifices made by our ancestors. This is my unique way of paying tribute to all the great personalities of this nation, and to make their sacrifice count. I believe that painting portraits of renowned persons and freedom fighters in blood will attract more people towards my work and theme behind it, and also spark patriotism among youngsters,” added Bagli.
Sangamesh undergoes a mandatory medical check-up prior to drawing blood. “Before extracting blood, I undergo a minor check-up for the platelet count and haemoglobin level. It’s been nearly a decade but I have never come across any health issues. Appreciating my work, lab technicians provide me free service,” he smiles.

Recalling the release of his first 50 paintings drawn in blood, on a single day in 2013, he said, “It was one of the most memorable days of my life. The response from the public, critics and others was overwhelming. It inspired me to draw over 300 paintings of international and national figures. I will continue this work till the Almighty permits.”

At present, he is working on the life history of Bharat Ratna Dr B R Ambedkar, which is expected to be released next month. With this project, he educates people about Ambedkar and important events of his life. His last painting in blood was of late Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, who died in an air crash recently.  

Sangamesh Bagli has displayed his works in renowned art galleries in Delhi, Haryana and eight districts of Karnataka, including Bengaluru. He aims to display his works abroad with the government’s support. He runs his own ‘Sangamesh Art Gallery’ in Jamkhandi, which was set up 27 years ago. He is also the recipient of many awards, including an honorary doctorate from the World Record University 2017 and Creative Teacher Award.  

VISUAL ART LESSONS 
Bagli has also set up a unique art gallery in the school where he works, which has attracted praise from higher authorities. “I use my paintings in all possible ways. The art gallery will ease the way of learning for high school students. I have paintings on every subject, formula and theories. They help students understand the subject easily, and score well in exams too,” he said, hastening to add, “No, I don’t use my blood for these paintings!”

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