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No artist has inspired as many generations of painters and artistic minds and hearts—and as much—as the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. He lived a short life, from 1853 to 1890, and lived eventfully. He is perhaps entirely responsible for the wronged, tortured artistic genius persona that the world often associates with great original artistic talent that is ahead of its time. But what keeps Van Gogh’s appeal enduring among aesthetes and philistines alike until now—he lived more than 115 years ago, after all—is the most universal of emotions that his paintings offer to the viewer: Joy.
Art lovers and critics sometimes love to disdain him for his popularity, but nobody has ever come out of a Vincent Van Gogh show unaffected. He remains an enduring testimony to the fact that often the art with utmost beauty emerges from a space of extreme sadness and mental torture. In his lifetime, Van Gogh struggled with mental illness and poverty, leading to his suicide at the age of 37.
Sunflowers by vincent van gogh (Image: Shutterstock)
His fantastic talent for composition, drawing, and colour is unmatched in the art world—numerous artists have emulated his style, and responded to him through their works. In a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits characterised by bold, dramatic brushwork and bright colours. His unique style opened up the era of new expressionism in modern art, and inspired many art movements to follow. Later, critics coined the term post-Impressionism to categorise his style.
He is also among a few artists whose works lend themselves so readily to immersive experiences. The travelling exhibition Van Gogh 360 arrives in Mumbai on January 20 (tickets are open on bookmyshow.com), a multi-media, AI-augmented experience that takes the viewer into “rooms” in Van Gogh’s life—his childhood and later years. The viewer can walk through magnified details of ‘Starry Night’, his iconic oil-on-canvas work from 1889, which is the artist’s rendition of his view from a window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise. The show magnifies the sensory world of ‘Starry Night’ as you wander through giant projections that highlight brushstroke, detail, and colour.
The show, which has travelled to numerous cities across the world, comes to India after its run in Ottawa. It brings more than 300 of his most popular works together, with mini experiences dedicated to various stages of the painter’s life. Originally created by Annabelle Mauger, the show is produced by Exhibition Hub, a global curator, producer and distributor of large-scale, immersive digital artistic experiences. Through 330-plus floor-to-ceiling projections of his famous artworks, the viewer can walk under ‘Starry Night’, take in the meditative vibe of ‘Almond Blossoms’ or fly with the birds of ‘Wheatfield with Crow’.
Immersive Van Gogh isn’t a new experience for art lovers. Many such shows have taken place since the 1970s, but this is the biggest in scope and most cutting-edge in terms of technology.
We live, supposedly, in the age of “experiences”; the term evokes the belief that millennials—and generations after that—value travel and ephemeral encounters over material goods. In the US, ‘Van Gogh 360’ became a rage in 2020 after Emily in Netflix’s Emily in Paris is shown to visit L’Atelier des Lumières, a real-life digital arts centre in Paris for an immersive show called ‘Van Gogh, Starry Night’. At present, there are a few digital exhibitions showcasing van Gogh’s work in cities across the world, including this show.
Several art critics and art lovers around the world have qualified the show to a superficial Van Gogh experience—without the layer of feelings that one associated with seeing a Van Gogh masterpiece. Overall, it has enjoyed overwhelming love and commercial success all over the world. The new year promises us the spell.
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