Art as therapy

It speaks to us from places that we least expect, and gladdens our heart and soul

Published - May 12, 2024 01:58 am IST

An artist without a canvas or a forum will find his own platform.

An artist without a canvas or a forum will find his own platform. | Photo Credit: G. Karthikeyan

Art and poetry thrive in the most unusual of places. Literary snippets on the back of an auto-rickshaw snaking through traffic, figures drawn on a dust-laden automobile, on the bark of trees on a solitary trek, names of lovers on dilapidated buildings, on the last pages of school books, on trucks serving a purely utilitarian purpose of transportation... art can speak to us from places we least expect it to. From prehistoric paintings to present-day Internet memes, humans have always tended to express themselves without serving any immediate functional purpose. Is it an innate human desire to communicate through artistic mediums or is it just a method we have evolved to make sense of the unfathomable and incomprehensible nature of the world around us?

In a neo-liberal setup, a thing does not have any inherent value until it serves a utilitarian purpose. Our societies have started measuring their growth by the material they produce. In this maddening race towards more productivity, art is a luxury, a distraction from the vagaries of the world around us. At times, it is reduced to entertainment and escapism. But the curative nature of the arts has always been known to us. Whenever we see a beautiful painting, read a poem, or watch an actor perform, something within us is moved. Art can make us experience a whole range of heightened emotions. Aristotle explained the process of catharsis, which is the purging or cleansing of repressed emotion.

Science is catching up. Neuroaesthetics is an emerging field that has shown that art can positively impact our brain and can potentially have a therapeutic effect on individuals suffering from psychological disorders.

Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross, in their international bestseller Your Brain on Art, have illustrated how therapists all around the world are using musical instruments and visual arts to treat people. So the next time you feel overwhelmed by life, it would not be a bad idea to pick up a sketchbook or musical instrument or maybe revive your lost passion for knitting.

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