Art & Healing

A study in 2017 conducted to understand the effect of art on the state of mental health and illness proved that art displayed in hospitals and asylums contributed to an environment where patients felt safe and improved their cognitive and social skills. Art and therapy are courses that have been intertwined throughout time. The healing process that art provides is one that’s been utilized to cure or improve mental health and stimulation. From placing art in homes and work spaces for mental stimulation and works of art on paediatric and mental illness spaces for cognitive improvement, art is potent in its capacity to influence and impact the mind positively and progressively.

The optimistically symphonic crescendo in an instrumental or the thump thump drum beats of a dance song, the lulling cadences of a lullaby; from depictions of sprawling green gardens and serotonin shots of sunset hues to Technicolor illustrations; the graceful movement of your body in synch with soothing music or the fast-paced number choreographed to dance music – the capacities of art’s influence on mind, body and soul are those that are intrinsically designed to tap into the deepest parts and enhance the voices of one’s truest self, thereby improving their thought process. The 2020 pandemic has been a tidal wave of actions and reactions, causes and effects on the human population as a whole as well as on an individual’s self. The downward spiral of one’s mental health arises from the implementations and practices of quarantine and isolation, economic and social, ethical issues. In fact, ARTRA Magazine’s 54th Edition, June 2020 explored the artists’ reaction to the pandemic and the notion of loss and grief. ARTRA Canvas’s first instalment began throug07:36:35h the responses of artists to the pandemic, as their works addressed the depths of the disease and its effect on society.

The idea and outcomes of the therapeutic qualities of art can be perceived through the works of several artists of diverse mediums - Dr. Shanali Perera, featured on ARTRA Magazine March 2020 E52, whose works of art are reflections of personal experiences. Dr. Shanali Perera was initially a rheumatologist practicing in Manchester, United Kingdom. After stumbling upon the illness herself, Shanali turned to art as a medium of therapy. “I developed vasculitis during my specialist training in rheumatology, and consequently advocate for the use of creativity to cope with facing challenges from long-term conditions,” she explained. Upon developing vasculitis, a disease that means an inflammation of blood vessels, Shanali has since advocated for the mode of creative expression to cure and cope with challenges from lasting impressions, both physically and mentally.

Shanali Perera

Healing through art can be achieved through any medium from the practice of visual reception and application to the performance arts of music and dance; the concept of music in sync to the body’s rhythm and the soothing beats of the symphonic crescendos, the idea of movement and flexibility. The performance art of dance creates a space of mutual understanding, expressing through movements, the story of a narrator. In the period of quarantine and self-isolation, it is crucial to be linked, connected in mind and body to express and heal, to comprehend and most of all, recuperate. We explored, with performance artist Umeshi Rajeendra, how dance helps strengthen the link between mind, body and soul. The nature of healing, at its core, has to do with looking deeply and honestly at all aspects of our lives, from physical to emotional to spiritual. Because Art is about creativity through introspection, it has a way of uncovering fresh thinking, depth, texture, and colour to the everyday, opening emotional and existential landscapes that not only pushes us to be reflective, but also helps us reimagine possibilities of a better life.

“Free expression, unhindered expression, expression that isn’t critiqued is art that heals. What a person expresses in the form of art comes from their very core. It may not appear to be ‘a work of art’ and may be criticised for its lack of principles, elements or artistic value, but for the artist who seeks self-healing, none of that really matters. It shouldn’t matter, really, says Priscilla Caren, artist and art therapist. When the stress of creating a masterpiece is taken out of the equation, art becomes a truly significant mode of expression and self-healing. A soul independent of its body and mind, reaching out to express becomes that of an artistic expression. The trauma that remains undisclosed inside the human conscious builds internal frustration, and the medium and methodology of art therapy plays a distinct role in untangling these knots of tribulation. Priscilla Caren wields a practice and science that allows a psychological liberty, one that deliberates the period of uncertainty and through art, the conscious is resuscitated.

Shanali Perera

Art has always been a form and medium of communication, conflict resolution and expression; Van Gogh retained his sanity through art at the asylum at which he was admitted. It is recorded that in 1942, a British artist Adrian Hill coined the term ‘Art Therapy’ when he discovered the potential of its healing powers as he recovered from tuberculosis, drawing and painting to relieve his sickness. By the 1940s, writers in the mental health field had described their treatment with patients as ‘art therapy’. The concept of art used in the facilitation of healing the wellbeing of mind and soul has been around for centuries. Throughout ARTRA’s journey, we’ve encountered artists both locally and internationally who’ve utilized art to heal and therapize. The practice of healing is individual to each but it is the idea of expression and communication through art that unfolds the tangles of pain.

3rd February, 2021 Visual Art | Paintings