Patients paint their thoughts

Patients paint their thoughts

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Edward Wong
Tam Man-ling (above) shows off her artwork, The Soul-searching Artist. Photo: Edward Wong

Exhibition gives people suffering from mental illness a chance to explore their artistic side and reach out through their drawings, writes Wong Yat-hei

There is a saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words'. The exhibition Rising Stars International Arts Festival - Mind Painters helps people suffering from mental illness to showcase their talent and convey their feelings through their artworks.

Now in its third year, the exhibition features more than 50 drawings selected by psychiatrists and art professionals from Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

The event, hosted by Sino Group's Art in Hong Kong, the Centre for Community Cultural Development and Japan's Hayashibara Foundation, runs until March 23.

This year, artists from Castle Peak Hospital and New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association have the opportunity to display their talent to the public.

Danny and Siu Kuen, who are both receiving treatment at Castle Peak, are among the lucky ones.

Danny says seeing his work appreciated really lifts his spirits. 'So far my two favourite drawings are of fireflies and a cross. My dad saw my drawing of fireflies when he came to visit me. I really hope he can see my drawing of the cross at the exhibition. I drew a cross because I am a Christian.'

Siu Kuen, who is unable to speak, makes use of her pictures to connect with others. Chan Man-yu, a nurse at Castle Peak, says when Siu Kuen sees something that interests her, she draws it and then adds her own creative elements. 'There is a studio in our ward and Siu Kuen draws there every day. Although she cannot speak, she is able to describe her picture to other patients through hand signs and facial expressions. This is her way of building connections with others,' Chan says.

Dr Fan Tak-wing, senior psychiatrist at Castle Peak and the exhibition's curator, says: 'Drawing is not a kind of treatment for the patients, but it has a positive impact on them. As the patients continue to draw, I realise the lines and themes of their artworks become more distinctive. This shows drawing helps patients to organise their thoughts.'

Fan also sees art as a way to boost the relationship between patients and medical staff. 'Through the artworks, our staff can connect at a personal level with the patients and focus on giving them treatment and see if there is an improvement in their condition,' he says.

Unlike most artists in the exhibition, Tam Man-ling received formal training at art school and won numerous awards. Tam suffered from mental illness when she was young, and although she had to undergo long-term treatment, she never gave up drawing.

'Before receiving treatment, I drew pictures to express beauty but now I am more focused on expressing myself in my drawings. I draw what I see and what I feel. Without art, life would be meaningless,' Tam says.

The artworks are on display until March 23 at Central Plaza in Wan Chai and on the ground floor of Olympian City 1 at Kowloon West. Afterwards, the exhibition will move to Japan.

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