Pablo Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” It has been established that visual arts have a therapeutic, healing effect on body and mind, and can contribute a great deal to feeling a sense of wellness and inner peace.
Bangalore-based trained counselor and artist Shan Re has combined her counseling skills with painting, pottery etc to work with stressed-out executives in the corporate field. “I find that art does stimulate creative thinking thereby increasing productivity and dynamic problem-solving skills. It can help you cope better and releases stress. You get to think beyond your limitations and think out of the box. Since creation and healing are the same energy, the creative process transfers pain into artistic expression,” she says. Shan is also quick to add that art is only a complementary therapy; it cannot be a substitute for medical advice. But it is also true that medication alone cannot help people with stress, depression, schizophrenia, paranoia etc.
Painting on canvas or on paper helps release pent-up emotions. “As a qualified therapist, I can analyse their work and figure out what is going on in their mind,” says Shan who also relies on her own intuitive powers while working with clients. She says that even those who attend her art classes, simply to learn the basic techniques or to hone their skills, find that playing around with paints and colours makes them feel happy and relaxed, and improves concentration and focus. “They may not create noteworthy pieces, but it gives them a sense of satisfaction and joy,” says Shan.
Co-founder of the Aurinko Academy in Bangalore, a progressive school, Chetana Keni has been using art and craft to instill confidence and will power in teachers and students. “We do not have art exams with marks or grades, and art is something which is non-competitive and very subjective. I use it in our academy to create bonding between children. Every year, six months are spent learning and perfecting one art form, whether it’s painting, wire art, yarn art etc. The next six months, teachers and students get busy making products which are auctioned at the annual crafts bazaar. The funds raised are used to sponsor the education of an underprivileged child. Chetana observes that pupils emerge stronger, confident, and even their hand-writing improves. “Those with learning disabilities become more relaxed and slow learners show a marked improvement even in academics. Since all teaching staff also paint and draw, there is more bonding between staff, there is no designated art teacher as such.”
Bharati Sagar, a Bangalore-based painter who has been painting professionally for more than 40 years, has two schizophrenic students. “They feel happy the moment they come to class and are proud of their creations. They do feel self-conscious that my other pupils are looking at them and laughing at their mistakes but I encourage them to simply concentrate on doing their drawings and paintings. I tell them to pour out their feelings and express their angst,” says Bharati.
Mysore-based Akhil Lanka holds meditation camps, which are attended by people from all over the world. He makes participants use both their hands to paint so as to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain. They then lie down and meditate, and are given instructions on breathing and visualisations. He uses Tibetan singing bowls which is a part of Buddhist tradition to create favourable sound vibrations.
Trained counselor and exponent of contemporary dance Brinda Jacob Janvrin holds year-long training programmes for NGOs, teachers, performing artistes, counsellors and others on the use of visual and performing arts like dance and theatre to enhance their own creativity, and further the inner journey. “Art is an expression of the unconscious mind where thoughts and patterns are expressed visually; the very process of creating is itself therapeutic. Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung had once said that art is an act of the imagination.”