Paintings by a gifted young artist who took his own life last year will be displayed in Weird Years, an exhibition celebrating his life and talent and highlighting significant shortcomings in the ACT’s mental health systems.
Ravi Madan struggled for years with significant mental health issues before his death in April 2021. He was also a gifted artist who used his paintings to explore and make sense of a challenging world. His family and friends have brought together an exhibition of powerful and sometimes confronting work, to open on 5 December.
Following Ravi’s death, his parents, Leigh Watson and Ashish Madan, have campaigned to improve support in the ACT for young people after suicide attempts. They’re hoping that the exhibition will show Ravi as a creative and deeply thoughtful person and highlight the need for lifesaving interventions for those who are struggling with severe mental health issues.
Weird Years has been curated by Brooke Neilson Richardson, a close friend of Ravi’s and an emerging curator. She and Ravi worked together on his artistic journey and Brooke says Weird Years was birthed in the final years of Ravi’s life.
“In this time, he struggled with mental illness and sought solace in his art, expressing thoughts and emotions that we can only attempt to understand,” Brooke said.
“Ravi articulated Weird Years as a time of grappling with his life, capturing his experience within vivid and detailed pieces of art. Through colour, texture, and symbolism he unpacked the complexities of love, loss, and suffering.
“He depicted friends, family and his vision of the world around him. Despite the seemingly narrow lens, he was in no way limited. Ravi unravelled and delved into the symbioses of society against self, the natural world alongside chaos, and life versus death.”
Ravi’s parents, Leigh and Ashish, have advocated for 18 months for improvements to the ACT mental health system, especially following suicide attempts by young people.
They say they struggled for two and a half years before his death to get him the help he needed, coming up time and time again against a system they believe wasn’t fit for purpose.
Ravi was hospitalised following his first suicide attempt but Leigh and Ashish say there was little follow-up after he was discharged. As he was over 18, medical professionals were bound by privacy concerns and Ravi would not allow his parents to help him seek support.
“We were so alone and frustrated,” Leigh said. “On the night he died, we made a firm decision that other young adults and their families should not suffer the same fate.”
They are urging the ACT Government to prioritise the funding and development of measures that are connected, immediate, meaningful, and totally wrap-around.
“At the moment, young people presenting to the emergency department are not provided with ongoing support,” they said. ”There is also no information or support provided to family or carers. They are totally on their own to navigate the system and try to get their young person well.”
Weird Years is showing at Smith’s Alternative during December. The exhibition launches on Tuesday, 6 December, at 5:30, all welcome.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are concerned about someone’s immediate safety or wellbeing, call 000.