CHENNAI: Roosters and lions, blocks and splashes of colour, and an aberration here and a scribble there — these are glimpses from ‘Expressions of Beautiful Minds’, an exhibition by people with mental illness, organised by the Schizophrenia Research Foundation India (SCARF). The exhibition, featuring 48 paintings by eight artists, most of whom have schizophrenia, was launched on Monday, and will go on till May 25 at Amethyst, Royapettah.
“When say schizophrenia, it’s so negatively stereotyped that they think these patients are good for nothing. With this exhibition, we are trying to prove that despite their illness, they are productive, creative and artistic,” says Dr R Thara Srinivasan, director, SCARF. Art is generally tough and requires discipline and concentration. “But they have been able to paint despite their illness,” says Dr R Mangala of SCARF. One of the patients was so excited that as soon as she was asked if she could participate, she finished a painting in an hour —she’s 63 years old! “She finished three paintings in two days. Another patient passed away due to a physical condition. Her last two paintings are on display,” Dr Mangala says.
Does art have a therapeutic effect? “Yes, art and music therapy are standardised treatments abroad for mental disorders. But we don’t use it in a very structured way here. Most of these patients were already painters or interested in art before the illness set in,” explains Dr Thara.
Dr Mangala says that awareness about schizophrenia, which affects about 1-2% of India’s population, has improved but isn’t enough. “It is difficult for a family to come to terms with the fact that one of them has the illness. So there’s a tendency to put off treatment. Through such events, we also try to create awareness about the golden hour or a window period, when you can intervene, and help them come out of the illness without irrevocable changes in their brain structure,” she explains.
Dr Thara points out, “Some paintings exhibit a certain abnormality in the thought process — what we call thought disorder.” But we can’t help but soak in the beauty of the strokes and the eccentricity. We are in agreement with Dr Mangala — “It amazes us to see this every day, so we thought we should share it with the world.”
A collection of artworks by persons with schizophrenia is on display at Amethyst, Royapettah till May 25. Art and music are said to be methods of treatment