On 24th February, 2017, Chinese photographer and poet, Ren Hang took his life by jumping out off the 28th floor of a building.
The New York Times obituary spoke of his cyclical depression and his provocative work that often got him into trouble in conservative China, his home country.
But this isn’t about Ren Hang, this is about mental health amongst artists.
The two words sound as dry and morbid as white tube lights flickering in hospital corridors, but there is very little space to speak of this in any other light.
An artist’s working life is often filled with melancholy and solitude. It ought to be; there is seldom any time to think beyond dinner and bills when you hold down a 9to5.
But to get inspired, influenced and jump-start your mind to unleash your creative talent also most often than not, stirs up soul journeys that are better left alone.
It is like Alice’s journey; there is something sinister about Wonderland, even if it is equal parts magical and fantastic.
What happens when such heavy whirlpools of existential angst burden those who create? Art in all its forms, is a lonely process. Even in times of social media and the blockbusterisation of exhibitions, creativity is a single mind’s many manifestations.
We have come a long way to save our artists from starvation and posthumous fame. But our journey to save artists from themselves have not even started. Is it OK to accept that depression is a dear friend of artists? Is vulnerability and suffering inevitable and therefore accepted?
We must let them be in their isolated lives and give them the strength to lean on us. It’s a bit of both really, the agony of solitude and the ecstasy of creation.
To Ren Hang, may your work inspire all, and your suicide deter others.