Home Arts & Leisure Introducing mental health issues with a light touch

Introducing mental health issues with a light touch

THERE’S A whole world of feelings, struggles, and triumphs that people with mental illness experience.

For visual artist Sigwada Knicolai Mendoza, communicating this requires creativity in order to be able to remove the misconception that tackling mental health issues in art is a serious or heavy task.

Most of all, she believes it requires a lot of heart.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2009,” Ms. Mendoza told BusinessWorld. “What I want people to understand about my condition is that we have strength and resilience. With treatment, we can be functional. We can work, deliver on deadlines. It’s not the end of the world for us.”

Last September, Ms. Mendoza was a featured artist at Art Spot at the Miara Events Place in Tagaytay, and at the Modern and Contemporary Art Festival portion of Globe’s G Fair at the BGC High Street Amphitheater in Taguig. The two exhibits introduced her whimsical, pop-surreal works featuring her unique characters — from the hyperactive bunny Rosie to the melancholic whale Grey — to a wider audience.

These cartoonish anthropomorphic creatures featured heavily in the paintings exhibited throughout September, accompanying the main character that represents herself, the wooden astronaut Nikolai.

The cast of animals present a childlike view of her mental illness, which involves the ups of hypermania and the downs of melancholy.

“I make my art for people going through similar things. And because there’s a stigma among buyers and collectors that mental health-related works are usually dark, I approach it with a whimsical style,” Ms. Mendoza said.— Brontë H. Lacsamana

By engaging even the youngest of minds, it will be easier to work towards eliminating the stigma that surrounds the topic, she added. Though it begins by painting her own bipolar disorder, the goal is to eventually depict various kinds of mental illness in her works.

Advocating for mental health awareness and early intervention is not the only cause she is fighting for, however.

Ms. Mendoza’s latest project is a fundraising exhibit called “Pink October.” Mainly dedicated to her sister Anya who is bravely battling stage 4 breast cancer, the artist aims to underscore the importance of early breast cancer detection through the show in which she also debuts as a curator.

“Since I graduated in fine arts from UP Visayas in 2001, I’ve always wanted to paint. But I found it’s important that your work is genuine to what you believe in,” she said. “The creativity also helps with my mental health.”

Her parting message for anyone wondering how she gets so many things done despite her illness is that your first priority must be to make sure you are stable.

“It can get stressful, so you really have to be mindful of both your physical and mental health.”

Her “Pink October” exhibit is on view at the second floor of the new San Marco Wing of the Venice Grand Canal Mall in Taguig until Oct. 31. — Brontë H. Lacsamana