Priscilla Caren

In the presence of a pandemic that isolates humankind physically and mentally, art now more than ever before, is filling voids and reshaping human thought. Art becomes more than a medium of expression but a form of therapy that unleashes the innermost frustrations that accumulate mentally during this period. Art takes on a multifaceted role of nurturer, a therapist and builds a vital support system from within to cope with the stress and pressure of inevitable trauma and uncertainty. Priscilla Caren then becomes a professional guiding and navigating the emotional landscape through art. Art critic and theorist John Berger identified, in the act of drawing, something that is inherently autobiographical – a continual process of refining vision which moves us towards new understandings about ourselves and the world around us. And society is seen taking the path through art therapy to learn and discover the world in manifold perspectives.

In conversation with artist and art therapist Priscilla Caren, who went on to successfully founded ‘Secret Garden’, the revered art school in 2009, inspired by ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, she shared the significance of art therapy during times of despair and suffering.

Q | How does art help you cope?

A | The curfew in Sri Lanka was imposed at very short notice, therefore I wasn’t able to get my art supplies from my studio because there were more urgent matters at hand.

I had to improvise, and that made me realise that an artist will always find a way, regardless of the situation. The possibility of creating art opens a window when you are trapped, or feel trapped. It’s similar to an escape hatch. You can go out into a world of endless possibilities and still not lose your hold on reality. Coping is about accepting your reality and knowing that you can still control and adapt to some aspects of that reality. Just knowing that the window is there, helps you cope. What you do when you pass through the window is pure indulgence.

Q | In your opinion, how does art become a mode of healing?

A | Free expression, unhindered expression, expression that isn’t critiqued is art that heals. What a person expresses in the form of art comes from their very core. It may not appear to be ‘a work of art’ and may be criticised for its lack of principles, elements or artistic value, but for the artist who seeks self-healing, none of that really matters. It shouldn’t matter, really. When the stress of creating a masterpiece is taken out of the equation, art becomes a truly significant mode of expression and self-healing.

Q | Can you explain the importance of art therapy and why it is especially important during this period?

A | The situation the entire world is in right now makes us all feel vulnerable and restrained on so many levels. At times such as these, people can feel lonely, worthless, afraid, insecure and depressed. So the question is, what is art therapy? Do we think art therapy is effective? How can we access it and what do we do? All I can say is, give it a try. Art in itself is therapy. Anyone can create. Creativity is very much part of human nature. If you enjoy cooking, express yourself in your presentation. If you like gardening, think of yourself as an artist in the garden. You can recycle materials to create something useful at home.

Repurpose or upcycle jewellery, paint using natural pigments, sew, dance, write, sing, or play/learn to play an instrument. As you can see, everyone can be an artist. Art flows seamlessly through everyday life. Recognize it and indulge in it. Creative expression can release tension and anxiety, give you something to look forward to every day, challenge, motivate and empower you. An absolute necessity for your mental and physical wellbeing.

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10th June, 2020 Visual Art | Conceptual