Finding Catharsis: This Exhibit Shines a Light on Mental Health and the Pandemic - Arts & Culture

“I think it’s important to make sense of what we have been through and I hope my art can help validate what we think and feel”

As we emerge from the pandemic and one of the most divisive election campaigns in history, health and human rights NGO The Red Whistle uses art to shift the focus and start a discussion about mental health.

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The Red Whistle partnered with Filipino contemporary artist Reynold dela Cruz and The Astbury for Introspections. This is an art exhibit featuring the works of dela Cruz created in the midst of global uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic.


“We all had our dark thoughts during the last two years,” dela Cruz says. “Art is one way of introspecting or looking within. I think it’s important to make sense of what we have been through and I hope my art can help validate what we think and feel.”

In the exhibit, the repeating patterns reflect the monotony of time and the cycles of lockdowns during the pandemic. It figures prominently as visual elements of the artworks. To him, what is personal can also be social and what is local can also be universal. He uses specific visual elements to signal this, the most prominent of which is the sliced canvas. 

Slicing the canvas with surgical precision is almost reminiscent of the spacing between the railroad ties on the tracks in his hometown of Bayanan, Muntinlupa.

“Deadly Innocent”

The origins of this technique is rooted in another story of mental health and healing. When a client declined to pay for a commissioned work, he told his wife, Hasmin, that he wanted to burn the artwork. Acknowledging her husband’s anger but also recognizing the impracticality of his impulse, Hasmin instead encouraged him to slash or slice the painting.

It surprisingly became a cathartic experience; slicing has become a visual expression of his emotions. This first sliced piece of art eventually became well received in his next exhibition.

Eventually, his signature sliced artistry became an invitation to view everything beyond the superficial, a physical symbol of Introspection. Every slice is a window that invites us to look inside, observe our inner conflicts, and examine them with our moral compass. 


“I think this is what we really need as a community to heal, to come together and be with each other again,” says The Red Whistle founder and creative director Niccolo Cosme.

Also, The Red Whistle President and Executive Director, Benedict Bernabe, unveiled ArtX that aims to use art to raise awareness of the key issues the organization is working on: HIV, LGBT rights, and mental health. “This is our first ArtX Mental Health collaboration and we look forward to working with more artists in the future.”

The Red Whistle has emerged from the pandemic with lessons to bear for the work that it will continue to do in the next few years. As it celebrates its 11th anniversary this year, the organization is focused on rebuilding and relaunching its key programs and activities on raising awareness on HIV, SOGIESC, and mental health.


For more information, visit The Red Whistle website at

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