Vincent Van Gogh’s work can be seen in prestigious museums across the world, but Van Gogh Alive - The Experience offers a new way to enjoy the Dutch artist’s paintings and learn about his life and times. The show, developed by Australian company Grande Exhibitions uses their unique Sensory4 system that combines multichannel motion graphics, cinema quality surround sound and up to 40 high-definition projectors to create an immersive, multisensory experience that gives viewers the feeling of stepping right into Van Gogh’s world and seeing his journey through his eyes, heart and mind.
The show has travelled around the world and has been brought to the UAE by Dubai-based 61X Degrees Entertainment under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture & Knowledge Development. It is being held at a specially constructed venue in Dubai Design District (d3).
Using more than 3,000 images of Van Gogh’s paintings and letters, the show traces his journey from his birth in 1853 and early years in the Netherlands, to his final years in Auvers-sur-Oise where he died of a self- inflicted gun-shot wound at the age of 37. The paintings reflect the different places and people that influenced him, and the many letters he wrote to friends and family members contain sketches of paintings he was working on, and vividly express his thoughts, feelings and anxieties. The accompanying music comprises classical pieces that complement the mood of the paintings and reflect the emotional turbulence in the artist’s life.
Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889. Oil on canvas
Visitors can walk around the darkened space or sit on bean bags as they watch the images flowing across the walls, columns, ceilings and floor and coming alive all around them.
The show begins with a series of self-portraits whose varying tones and styles reflect the changing emotional states of the troubled artist. It moves to the Dutch period, when his palette was dark and subdued and then to Paris where he was influenced by the impressionists to develop a vibrant new palette and style. Visuals of a train journey then take us to Arles, where he lived in the famous Yellow House and painted his Sunflower series.
The show then traces the gradual mental decline that led to his voluntary commitment to an asylum in Saint Remy, where he produced both tortured and peaceful landscapes. The final part explores his paintings of the vast open landscapes of Auvers-sur-Oise that reflect his own sense of emptiness and the evocative Wheatfield with Crows, considered to be his last work.
The beauty of this digital exhibition is that it gives a close-up view of Van Gogh’s world. It shows the actual landscapes and people that inspired him as well as how he interpreted them on his canvasses; and the scale, clarity, magnification and animation of the images allows us to see amazing details of his brushwork and colours.
For fans of Van Gogh it is a wonderful experience to be surrounded by monumental images of the sunflowers, to be out in the sunny fields of Arles with the artist, to be transported into his room, and to watch the stars twinkling in The Starry Night, the lights come on one by one in the Night Café and the crows fly out menacingly from Wheatfield with Crows.
The show is accompanied by an exhibition giving interesting information about some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings and a recreation of his bedroom in Arles based on his paintings. Visitors can also try their hand at painting in a studio offering digital tutorials for beginners and advanced levels. Van Gogh inspired merchandise and a limited-edition book and CD about the show are also available at the venue.
A special feature of the show in Dubai is a handwoven carpet inspired by The Starry Night, one of Van Gogh’s most famous works. It depicts a magical night view from the window of his room in the asylum in Saint Remy, expressing a sense of hope during a very troubled time.
The carpet has been especially created by Samovar Carpets, located in City Walk, Dubai. It was designed by Erbil Tezcan, founder of Wool & Silk Rugs and woven by skilled weavers in Nepal. The masterpiece, which took over three months to create will be sold in a silent auction with all proceeds earmarked for Dubai Cares to support its education programmes in developing countries. The base price is Dh35,000 and bids can be placed at www.onlineauction.ae until April 23.
“Over 40 colours were used to translate Van Gogh’s masterpiece into a carpet, so this unique piece showcases our core expertise in fine handmade carpets. We are honoured to be associated with this exceptional show, and to get an opportunity to support the noble initiatives of Dubai Cares,” Yousef Hindi, owner and managing director of Samovar Carpets says.
Jessica Zuell, operations director of 6ix Degrees Entertainment says, “Our aim is to bring unique shows that are entertaining and educational and add value to society. This show has travelled to 35 cities across the world and we are proud to bring it to this region for the first time. In a museum you can see paintings from a distance in a quiet and restricted environment, but this is a different way of experiencing art. It offers an in-depth look into the artist’s life and work, and can be enjoyed by children and adults, whether they are art lovers or not. We are happy to present this special carpet and charity auction, which are exclusive to the Dubai show.”
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.
Van Gogh Alive -The Experience will run at Dubai Design District until April 23, from 9am to 10pm daily. Tickets, priced at Dh70 for adults and Dh65 for students and children up to 16 years old, are available at the venue and from Platinum List, Virgin Megastore and Dubai Calendar app.