Van Gogh art exhibition that ‘transports’ visitors inside paintings heads to St. John’s

Van Gogh art exhibition that ‘transports’ visitors inside paintings heads to St. John’s

Man holding the hand of a small child.
Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is touring around the world and will arrive in St. John’s on July 19, running until Sept. 6. (Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience)

An immersive exhibit coming to St. John’s aims to give people a new perspective on the art of Vincent van Gogh.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has been touring around the world and will be making a stop in Newfoundland from July 19 to Sept. 6 at the St. John’s Convention Centre.

Unlike a traditional art exhibition with paintings hanging on the wall, the paintings in Beyond Van Gogh use the entire wall and the floor as a canvas.

Visitors see the art in a “dreamlike way,” as though they are transported inside the Dutch artist’s world, said Fanny Curtat, a Montreal art historian.

Curtat, who worked on the production of the exhibit, says the use of projection technology can be a bridge for people new to the art world.  

“A lot of people are intimidated by museums and might feel like they don’t have anything to relate with this 19th century artist,” she says.

“It’s about sort of breaking that wall and showing that it is truly for everyone.”

There’s much to learn about the artist beyond a cut ear and a few well-known pieces, she adds.

A collage of Vincent Van Gogh paintings as part of an art exhibition.
During the exhibition, visitors will see, through the use of projectors, the Dutch artist’s paintings covering entire walls. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

In the first room of the exhibit, visitors are introduced to the letters van Gogh sent to his brother, Theo, whom he loved dearly and confided in.

“There’s no better way of accessing his mind and his work and seeing just how much more there is to this man than just his pain,” Curtat said.

“You have access to his heart, his soul … you have access to such an incredible mind that’s filled with, I would say childlike wonder, but also philosophical depth.”

Van Gogh painted over 850 pieces in 10 years. The exhibition takes the viewers from one room to the next as a journey to showcase the changing landscapes and colours of van Gogh’s work.

With the paintings stretched on the walls and floor, Curtat says her favourite moment is seeing how the art makes an impression on children who run around “inside” a painting like Starry Night.

“There’s something really exceptional about seeing people’s reaction to a show like this. I’ve seen people cry, I’ve seen people laugh, I’ve seen adults and kids twirl around and dance, and so everybody brings in their own story to this experience.”

What would van Gogh think?

During van Gogh’s time, there was an article written calling him a “genius of light and [an] alchemist of colours,” Curtat said.

But hearing those words, van Gogh told his brother, he still felt doubt in himself.

“There was something in him that had a hard time accepting the fame that was coming his way, and he died too early for him to know the actual fame,” Curtat says.

“We can only assume that part of him would be completely overwhelmed by the world-famous status that he has right now. But a part of him, I would hope, would be happy to see that he was right in fighting for his vision.”

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