Bipolar Care Indonesia held an art exhibition titled "Expressions of Diverse Souls" aims to eliminate stigma on mental illness at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta from Apr. 03 to 13. (Photo courtesy of Bipolar Care Indonesia)

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness Through Art

APRIL 05, 2018

Jakarta. Bipolar Care Indonesia, a non-profit mental-health organization, opened on Monday (03/04) an exhibition of works by artists who suffer from bipolar, obsessive compulsive and anxiety disorders.

Titled "Ekspresi Ragam Jiwa" ("Diverse Expressions of the Soul"), the two-week exhibition at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta is an attempt to remove the stigma of mental illness and to open a broader discussion about the symptoms and possible treatment of the health issue.

The organizers seek to break the taboo surrounding various disorders that impair an individual's thoughts, emotions and social functioning.

"We hope to remove the stigma of mental illness so that everyone can talk about it freely. This exhibition also aims to open a discourse on mental health," said Vindy Ariella, the founder of Bipolar Care Indonesia (BCI).

According to Joko Kisworo, who curates the exhibition, art is an effective medium to address the sensitive issue.

"We want to remove the stigma ... It's also fun to learn about these issues through an art event, because everyone can express themselves without boundaries," he said.

The exhibition presets 78 works by 23 artists.

"We are hosting a series of events to raise awareness on mental health. We hope they will help to eliminate the stigmatization of the mentally ill," said Agus Hidayat who leads BCI.

Therapeutic Expression

Vindy started to explore her creativeness when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2009.

Apart from therapy and medication, she began to paint every day to express her feelings and fears.

The 27-year-old artist was greatly inspired by Vincent van Gogh, especially his "Starry Night," which made her realize that painting can give her the release of emotional tension.

"I also have a blog. Painting is another way for me to keep a diary. All my paintings come with different stories. I like the rawness represented in each stroke, and I want people to see it as purely as possible. Painting always makes me feel myself, not needing to pretend to be someone else to get noticed."

One of her paintings at the exhibition, "Fear in Hesitation," was her response to depressive thoughts during a manic episode.

"I always try to channel my depression into art. It becomes a therapy to vent my anxiety."

After years of painting monochromatic images, Vindy started to introduce color to her works. She now has a collection of 200 paintings and plans to publish her personal art book in the future.

Another artist whose works are displayed at the exhibition is Dinihari Suprapto, a journalist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2015.

"I like to play with layers, textures and colors. I have always been interested in art, but never really got deep into it."

The diagnosis prompted her to express sadness and anxiety through art.

"After doing collage art for quite some time, I decided to explore more by painting. I feel happier and alive each time I'm doing it."

Dinihari Suprapto's 'Mother's Madness.' (Photo courtesy of Bipolar Care Indonesia)

One of Dini's paintings, "Self Care," depicts how it feels to be both depressed and affected by mania. Dini said it represents her struggle to turn into a "self-care  mindset" when she is in both states.

"When I am depressed, I am unable to care about anything, as if I lost all kinds of meaning and purpose. Battling with extreme emotions has become part of me, and painting helps me to ease it."

The exhibition runs until April 13.