Published: 26th September 2020
In Sreejith PA's artsy world you're not alone. Here's how he's highlighting mental health issues through his artwork
Sreejith PA's art talks about difficult emotions and mental health. His latest project, Excerpts from a Journal, is an interactive community project
Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, Sreejith P A recounted a direct message that he received on Instagram from a girl he had never met before. In that long message, she opened up to him, a complete stranger, about how she contemplated dying by suicide some time ago. For her, Sreejith's art was empathetic and calming, and probably something that brought back hope.
Sreejith holds that message close. He wouldn't call it a compliment but that was what assured him that he must stick to the artistic path at a time when he questioned his life choices. His art isn't direct. It is, however, definitely captivating. You will stare at each image for a good many seconds, observing each detail and the message he's trying to convey through them. His protagonists are mostly humans — humans with complex emotions, like you and me. The images are soothing. They tell you that it is okay to feel what you feel and most importantly, remind you that you are not alone.
Sreejith's artwork titled 'Random access memories'
I then told him about a poster that I had stuck on my wall, a few months ago, which, coincidentally, was drawn by him. In three horizontal frames, it shows two people holding hands and healing together, flowers blooming from their initially messed up heads. The caption read, 'Your healing is your responsibility'. "It was quite relatable," I told him. He didn't seem surprised, but instead he tells me, in a rather timid tone, that he has heard quite a lot of his followers say that.
"Mine is a usual story," the 27-year-old says when I ask him how he was introduced to art. "I used to draw a lot during my childhood and would constantly attend art classes and workshops. However, after Class XII, I concentrated on my entrance examinations and then engineering, until I graduated with a BTech in Automobile Engineering," he says. He started using Instagram around that time.
Simultaneously, he was also introduced to the Facebook page The Artidote, set up by German artist Jovanny Varela Ferreyra. The page discussed difficult thoughts through art. "At one point, that was the only page I checked out. Every single post was relatable," says Sreejith who admits that The Artidote inspired his work to an extent. "After a while, I knew that if I become an artist, I would draw about mental health," he says. Upon graduating, he took up an animation course but ended up dropping out. That, however, introduced him to design, a profession that he later embraced. Meanwhile, he started posting more content on his Instagram handle. Slowly, the community grew.
Even though he began by drawing portraits, he switched to mental health and the human mind, gradually. "You don't have a lot of opportunities. The whole idea of art is to make people think about something. This got me thinking about what more I could do. That was when I came up with a series Garden of Thought," he says. The series explores human emotions and their relationship with nature. Interestingly, in almost all the pictures in this series, he has used vibrant flowers in an otherwise monochromatic frame to depict healing. There is an iota of hope in each of them. "Nature and human emotions are both quite complex. I wanted to combine them in a simple form so that people can relate to it," says the artist.
His latest project is Excerpts from a Journal where people are asked to send in a journal entry of theirs. Sreejith says that he always wanted to do a community project where his audience is part of it. "The idea here is to let people know that they are not alone. There is another person going through the same thing," he says and signs off.
Edex and The New Indian Express have been curating the 40 Under Forty list since 2017. We featured collections of impactful grassroots teachers in 2017, innovative start-ups in 2018 and environmental impact-makers in 2019. All the people selected have been chosen after a careful process of editorial selection and nomination. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org