Mental Health and Art- Part 1

Mental Health has never been hidden in the world of art, it is actually quite the opposite; it has always been expressed through it.

From Van Gogh’s ear cutting to Yayoi Kusama’s dotted installations and colourful sculptures “originat[ing] from hallucinations only she can see.” Even Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’  which is said to be inspired by hallucinations, where the colours of the sky at sunset reminded him of blood, with its hues of orange and red. And all of Martín Ramirez’s prints and repetitive patterned artworks being created in a mental institution, are all manifestations of mental health.

There is such a negative connotation to the term “Mental Health,” when all it does is refer to the state of a person’s mind and their emotional well-being.

Studies conducted in India in 2015 show that “one in five Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime,” attributed to academic, familial, societal and work related stress, however, it is most predominantly genetically caused. People in India are afraid to discuss mental health, be it self-love or mental disorders (severe or common) because it is looked down upon in society and seen as a sign of weakness. Because of the stereotypical perceptions we have created for men and women, men are seen as weak and unable to provide for their families if they have a mental disorder, while women are are seen as weak and unable to support the husband or unfit to marry altogether. People with mental health issues are less likely to be given jobs, or marriage proposals (a big thing in Indian societies amongst older generations,) and people also worry that talking about it or going to a therapist are signs of weakness too.

When there is so much stigma surrounding this prevalent issue, young Indian Art seems to be shifting. Indian Art now focuses on the feeling it evokes in its audience rather than the subject itself. One example being; Jenny Bhatt’s ‘Mind Map’ series which looks at a visual representation of an artist’s thoughts, as she uses her imagination to explore the human psyche through spirituality and hints of surreal pop art. Symbolism playing a bigger role in artwork than realistic storytelling, usually straying away from traditional depictions of history to more contemporary art.



Artwork: Mind Map 17 by Jenny Bhatt and Guidepost to the Eternal Space by Yayoi Kusama -5 charts that reveal how India sees mental health