The healing canvas

Jul 09, 2013, 02:12 IST | Ruchika Kher

Art as a medium has purpose and benefits that are fare more deeper than that of being the domain of aficionados and style icons. Experts and therapists across Mumbai are increasingly using art therapy to help people with several conditions and disorders ranging from schizophrenia and autism to depression. Ruchika Kher gets closer to this canvas

“Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colours flowers, so does art colour life,” author John Lubbock had subtly but effectively elucidated the essence of art in these lines as he focussed on the context of art being integral to life.

While most of us perceive it as only a creative marvel or a lifestyle statement, others even view it as an object of historical relevance, but art as a medium is much more than that. It possesses the power of healing, which plays an important role in the overall well being of an individual.

An art therapy session at The Art Loft

Exploring this facet of art is the presence of several therapists in the city, who have been healing people and solving their issues through the medium of art therapy. Taking us through this process, Leila Tayebaly, who regularly conducts art therapy classes at The Art Loft in Bandra, says, “Art therapy is a hybrid discipline based on the fields of art and psychology. It works on the premise that the making / creating and viewing of art have inherent therapeutic potential.”

Nabhiraj Mehta
Nabhiraj Mehta at a session

She piques our interest adding that by creating art and reflecting on the process and the product, people experience enhanced awareness of themselves and others, can better cope with distressing symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences and enjoy the creative process of making art. It uses images and colours to bring to consciousness the feelings and thoughts that we are unable to access through words alone.

Art of healing
Art therapy has been known to help people suffering from various conditions including dementia, depression, excessive rage, autism, dyslexia, stress and emotional trauma. “Art provides the much-needed means through which our buried emotions can be expressed, understood and released.

Painting can help us feel and face our daily obstacles such as impatience, panic, discomfort, phobias, unhappiness and discontent on paper. Therefore, it is used to reconcile emotional conflicts, increase self-awareness and manage behaviour to help improve the quality of life,” empahsises Tayebaly.

Therapists believe that colours help us breathe. Like the art of Zen, yoga or calligraphy, colours act on actions of breathing in and out. They are closely linked with our inner feelings and they bring harmony between our thoughts and actions. Art therapist Nabhiraj Mehta, who runs an NGO Child-n-You mainly works with children with autism.

He believes that there is a major difference between curing, which a doctor does and healing, which art therapy facilitates. “Curing means getting rid of a symptom, while heeling refers to the overall well being of a person,” he stresses, adding that the idea of art therapy is to give people a non-threatening medium through which they can express themselves. “Art helps you bring forth your innermost thoughts without any stress. Also, art therapy relieves people of any baggage and makes them happy, and if you’re happy, you will grasp faster, learn quickly and even respond to other treatments better because it will help you be in a good frame of mind,” believes Mehta.

Magical colours
Not just painting or drawing, but the art form of rangoli can also be used as a medium of therapy, a practice that Vijyalakshmi Mohan believes in. She began learning rangoli in Trichy, Tamil Nadu when she was barely five, and has been promoting it for decades. Till today, she has helped numerous patients with dementia, autism and individuals. She has also conducted similar workshops for the victims of the killer Tsunami of 2004.

“Colours are therapeutic, so it accentuates certain chakras in our body that provide energy. It also helps one de-stress and be more relaxed. Since art therapy, especially with Rangoli, is rare in India, I felt it might be a good way to introduce more and more people to this,” says Mohan, who has moved to Singapore now, but continues to visit Mumbai to conduct workshops.

Curb on suicides
Another Mumbai-based artist Shaam Kodilkar, who has been an art therapist for 30 years and has dealt with many people, is trying to focus more on suicidal cases now. Kodilkar feels that stress and suppressed emotions are taking a dangerous curve and an increasing number of people are going on the path of ending their own lives, something Kodilkar believes can be prevented.

“The main reason for suicidal tendencies is that people are not willing to talk openly about issues that they have to deal with. They hide emotions and do not communicate. Art therapy can give them a free and fair environment where they can express themselves and lighten their burden and in turn get into counselling. This is a major issue that needs immediate attention in today’s times,” stresses Kodilkar.

How colour heals
>> Colours act on actions of breathing in and out
>> They are closely linked with our inner feelings and bring harmony between thoughts and actions
>> Colours are therapeutic so they accentuate certain chakras in the body that provide energy
>> It helps to de-stress and relax
>> Colours bring to consciousness the feelings and thoughts that we are unable to access through words alone

Reach them at
Leila Tayebaly:
At: The Art Loft, 37 Waroda Road, off Hill Road, Bandra (W);
Call: 9819132958
Nabhiraj Mehta:
Log on to:
Call: 9820245761
Shaam Kodilkar:
Call: 9930020033 

RangoliI and the art of helping

Vijayalakshmi Mohan (left) helps a differently abled person create  a rangoli at one of her art therapy sessions

An art therapy session using rangoli for senior citizens

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