Artistic expression and support network key for mental health

Open to Public, ‘Father and Son’ Artwork by Columbian-born Dairo Vargas aims to spark community dialogue on mental wellbeing ahead of WISH 2022

Columbian contemporary fine artist Dairo Vargas is set to return to Doha for the upcoming World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) on 4-6 October, where he will demonstrate the power of art in advancing good health and personal wellbeing through a live painting session.

The piece he creates will be aligned with the 2022 summit’s wider focus on Qatar’s journey to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ from a public health perspective. According to Vargas, it will feature four figures celebrating energetically in a healthy environment to convey the interconnection between sports, health, and self-care.

This will be the second time Vargas will create a piece of art in real-time at WISH, following his participation at the 2018 edition that saw him paint ‘Father and Son’, which highlighted the critical value of support networks for individuals struggling with mental illness.

“When someone’s emotional health is suffering, an empathetic support network can be very important for the recovery process. ‘Father and Son’ reflects the trust and respect between friends and family members, which allows an individual to rebuild confidence and self-esteem,” he explained.

Guided by the special emphasis on mental health at WISH 2018, Vargas drew on his personal experience to produce ‘Father and Son.’ “When I was suffering with depression, my family and friends were always there, even though they didn’t know what was really happening with me. Their support gave me the strength to continue. I was consumed by negative thoughts and low self-esteem. I never asked for professional support for fear of judgment and discrimination.”

During this difficult time, art came to Vargas’s rescue, offering him the solace he needed. “After many years of suffering I started using art consciously to heal myself. I would make drawings entirely related to what I was feeling, allowing the pencil or paint to flow freely on the surface of the canvas. Slowly, I could see how anger, sadness and happiness were reflected in my output and I started to understand my emotions.”

Through his artwork, Vargas invites people to recognize the positive impact of art on mental wellbeing, saying: “Art promotes creativity and imagination, stimulating different parts of our brain and creating new neural pathways that improve well-being. Any artistic activity can lower stress levels significantly because the mind is refocused. The important thing is to focus on the process of creating rather than the final product.”

Vargas’ ‘Father and Son’ will be on display for public viewing at the Fire Station during Doha Healthcare Week (DHW), which will kick off ahead of WISH 2022, and run from 29 September – 3 October.

The exhibition will remain open till 7 October.

Members of the local community are encouraged to visit the exhibition and engage in open discussions about mental illness, and break away from the cycles of stigmatization around mental health disorders. The full range of activities at DHW can be viewed here.

WISH is Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative. To register your interest in attending WISH 2022, visit 

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