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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Van Gogh Alive – Starry, starry nights

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

I was a little hesitant to see ‘the most visited multi-sensory experience in the world’.

The marketing made me think that I might find the ‘Van Gogh Alive’ experience a little flashy.

The reality was that the giant immersive multi-media screens featuring Van Gogh’s work in no way lessened my delight in his original works. Some of the screens were animated; we saw a flock of birds sweep across cornfields, showers of cherry blossom gently falling, and stars go shooting across a deep blue night.

I was pleased to see the emphasis placed on Van Gogh’s oriental influence and was delighted to see an image of a geisha in Van Gogh’s idiosyncratic broad and quite primitive brushstrokes, a technique that contrasts so completely with the frequently wood-blocked style of the originals in their highly decorative precision. Van Gogh's work speaks of exuberant emotion whereas the language of the Chinese tradition is of stylisation and control.

Further, the magnification of those rough, primitive brushstrokes – at times almost stucco-like – highlighted Van Gogh's expressionist style and its obvious influence on the Abstract Expressionism movement that was to come far more keenly than any original-sized reproduction ... 'Van Gogh Alive's' musical accompaniment also worked beautifully.

The choice of famous quotes was well considered.

The sad:

I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.

The prophetic:

I can't change the fact that my paintings don't sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.”

… And the inspired:

Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.

Sydney Royal Hall of Industries

until 20 December

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