Street Artist ‘Mr G’ – Bringing Depression Out Of The Dark

Street Artist ‘Mr G’ – Bringing Depression Out Of The Dark

While Sydney artist Mr G now enjoys success and international attention, 3 years ago he was on the verge of suicide, battling the dark clouds of depression.

By Clare BruceMonday 2 May 2016Hope MorningsGuests and ArtistsReading Time: 5 minutes

Listen: Emma chats to artist Mr G about his journey through depression. Image: Facebook

“Christians aren’t supposed to go through depression!” That’s the first thought that went through Graham Hoete’s mind, when he realised he was struggling with the sickness.

Better known as by his artist name ‘Mr G’, Graham is a Sydney-based mural and portrait artist famous for his recent painting of the singer Prince, inspired by the song Purple Rain.

While he’s now enjoying success and international attention for his remarkable artistic talent, Graham told Hope 103.2 that three years ago he was on the verge of suicide, battling the dark clouds of depression.

It was a wake-up call for the former youth pastor, who admits he had a lot of preconceived ideas about mental illness.

Depression A Wake-Up Call

“I’ve been a Christian for 21 years now, and I had certain preconceived ideas about the whole topic of depression,” Graham told Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings. “But then I encountered and went through it myself, which was a huge game-changer for me. On one hand I was doing some great things globally in the art scene, and my wife and I were youth pastors in church,” he said, “but I could just not believe how I could get to a point like this. It kind of pressed and cornered me.

“Depression is such a debilitating sickness. I physically couldn’t get out of bed for about six months. I was going through a lot of deep emotional hurt, and all these things that a lot of men don’t really talk about. I had burnt out so I wasn’t able to work. I consider myself a pretty strong guy but I found myself spiralling down.

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“I asked my wife, ‘what am I going through?’, because she had been through it seven years prior. And she said ‘you’re going through depression’. It deeply impacted me and my perspective on life, on God, on church life, and I believe it pretty much corrected me on a whole bunch of things I had preconceived.”

Facing Up To His Need For Help

Mr G Jesus portrait

Portrait of salvation: Mr G’s work ‘CARRIED THROUGH THE STORM’ depicting his season of depression.

Graham says he was in turmoil over his struggle with depression.

“I was at a conflict” he said. I thought, ‘Christians aren’t supposed to go through depression’, and it caused me to look inward and think ‘am I doing something wrong, God?’ or ‘what’s wrong with me?’, or ‘am I not meditating on the word enough?’. The Bible says ‘God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind’, so I was thinking, ‘the word says one thing, but my experience is the total opposite’.

“I just found it was so difficult going through depression and sometimes the church context almost made me feel worse, because I felt like I wasn’t lining up with how Christians should be projecting and presenting themselves. I wasn’t full of joy, all that sort of stuff.”

He was surprised to find others in the same boat.

“The funny thing is, I actually came across other Christians throughout this journey who are going through the same thing, and almost suffering in silence, really,” he said. “Which was sad. They felt they couldn’t share openly that they were going through depression or that they were taking medication and stuff.”

How The Artist Overcame His Depression

While Graham is now in a strong and healthy place emotionally and can say he has come through to the other side of his depression, it was a slow and steady process that got him there.

“I’ve definitely come out a lot more compassionate, empathetic, and wiser.”

“It wasn’t just through one [prayer],” he said. “The key for me was having one or two friends that understood depression, and who were patiently walking alongside with me. And another thing that definitely helped me was taking a wholistic approach. I reassessed my lifestyle, [looking at] where I wasn’t sustaining my energy levels, nutrition, exercise, things I was neglecting.

“Slowly but surely I just fortified myself in those areas.”

He says he’s a changed man.

“I’ve definitely come out a lot more compassionate, empathetic, and wiser,” he said. “My wife would vouch that I’ve done a huge ‘180’. I was very blunt before, I had no compassion or empathy at all. But now I’m a big softy when it comes to this whole thing of depression—especially when someone’s going through it. Because I know what it’s like, I understand that pain, and I’ve been there.”

A Passion To Help Others Heal

Mr G Hope Heart

Art with a message: Hope is a common theme in Mr G’s art. Image: 

As an artist with a public profile, Graham is now taking every opportunity he can to speak hope to people, and break down the stigma around depression and suicide.

“God’s opening a whole lot of doors for me to be able to share my story, all for the purpose of helping those people out there who are going through it,” he said. “It’s beautiful how God works that way. There’s purpose to our pain.”

He’s also spreading hope through his art.

“Even through all the calamity I knew in my darkest moments – Christ was carrying me through my storm.”

One of his works, Carried Through The Storm, hangs in his home reminding him of what was the toughest season in his life, and how Jesus carried him through to safety. On a Facebook post about the work, he writes, “I’m thankful for Romans 8:28 – ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God’. So that even through all the calamity I knew in my darkest moments – Christ was carrying me through my storm.”

“I used to write Mr G [in my art works] in graffiti letters,” he said. “But now I paint the word ‘hope’. It’s probably one of the main themes of my works now. I paint it everywhere. It’s so beautiful and powerful.

He told Hope 103.2 that he now has a true understanding of the power of Biblical hope.

“I always write a little tag line every time I do a Hope piece: ‘Hope has a name, Christ’. Because at the end of the day, He is the source of true hope,” he said. “I don’t say that because it sounds good, but because I know that personally in my own life.”