Yesterday – while attending the book club that I ditched last month – I was reminded that I have yet to post about the Vincent Van Gogh exhibition that I ditched said book club for.
It was glorious.
We arrived at St Mary’s and made our way into the exhibition space (feels weird not calling it a nave, given it’s quite clearly a church).
Along each of the walls were deckchairs – the whole way around the room – to sit in comfort and allow for the best view of the walls. Not for me though, I sat at the very top, facing forward but with room to turn and gaze at the walls behind me.
The 360° exhibition lasted for roughly 40 minutes. Two hundred of Van Gogh’s works were projected around us.
Some images were presented in a fairly standard portrait gallery fashion, but with little hints of movement and murmurs of colour creeping in along the edges to give each painting or sketch a uniquely living sort of feeling.
Others were immersive, taking up the whole space, flowing towards and around us. Golden back drops of fields with tiny carts and animals, making their way across the room.
Dark tunnels, lit with flickering lanterns that depicted the artist through the ages, by his own hand.
Quotes were liberally distributed, to impart some of the perspective of the man who sold just one painting during his lifetime, yet who has become beloved since then.
Each stage of the projection was accompanied by music – mostly classical, all evocative and emotive – one moment heavy and ponderous, the next light and cheery. That playlist was a joy!
Frankly, I could have sat there for hours, just wallowing in the beauty and the emotions inspired. However, there were other aspects to explore.
Leaving the nave, we walked back into a room set up for adults and children to sketch out their own visions of Van Gogh’s works. We however, we’re all about the VR tour.
We sat back, helmets strapped on and what followed was 11 magical moments where I flew through Vincent’s world with a variety of his best known and loved paintings shown in full detail. Despite knowing I was really in York, sat on a stool, I couldn’t help reaching out to some of the sunflowers, or haystacks or giant glowing flowers that we floated past.
I’m including a link to a clip of the VR below but would actually advise not watching it if you are planning on going there. It’s worth going in with no expectations.
Of course, no thoughts of this emotional painter are ever complete, for me, without thinking of this – my favourite scene from Doctor Who.
In the 2010 episode Vincent and the Doctor, the artist is transported through time to catch a glimpse of how he is now perceived by the world.
Richard Curtis sets the scene beautifully and Bill Nighy delivers a thoughtful, heartfelt ode of praise for the ‘wild man’. As an epitaph, it’s wonderful and never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
The Doctor: I just wondered, between you and me—in a hundred words—where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?
Dr. Black: Well. Um, big question, um, but to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all.
Certainly the most popular great painter of all time. The most beloved. His command of color, the most magnificent.
He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty.
Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world.
No one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again.
To my mind, that strange wild man who roamed the fields of Provence, was not only the world’s greatest artist but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.Doctor Who
Massive thanks again to D for the recommendation!