Review: Immersive Van Gogh

It’s clear we’re crazy for Van Gogh. What’s not so clear is whether it’s the art or the ear that fascinates us.

From the film Lust for Life (starring Anthony Quinn as Gaugin and Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh) to the latest homage — Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience — we are hung up on his tortured mind. Once in a while you’ll get a tidbit on style. For instance, in the aforementioned, Lust for Life, Gaugin says, “You paint too fast.” To which Van Gogh retorts, “You look too fast.” But more often than not we focus on his madness, his ear.

But Van Gogh in fact did paint fast: 800 canvases in only 8 years. And almost a thousand letters to brother Theo. Here was a mind that would not stop working. Sadly, his post-impressionist failed to impress critics during his lifetime. Was his madness then due to a lack of recognition? He probably didn’t care about that so much as the lack of forthcoming funds for the work. 

The truly sad part is this: soon after his death his star began to rise to the heights it enjoys today. With five major motion pictures detailing his life, (two recently — LOVING VINCENT, AT ETERNITY’S GATE), countless books, a pop song, and now Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, his star seems to get brighter every year.

I got a chance to experience the Experience this past weekend at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby (near Philly). Well worth the immersion.

Most of the “show” focused on the madness, of course. But there was new info for me. For instance, he was supposedly color blind. Does that mean his amazingly assembled riot of color was pure chance? I doubt it. There were supposedly fifteen different shades of yellow in one of his sunflowers. That was an accident? It seems to me his work wouldn’t make sense if he truly couldn’t see colors accurately. The shading would be wrong. There would be no movement.

There’s so much movement in his paintings, in fact, people can’t help putting moving images of his work together (for instance, LOVING VINCENT). Surely that’s an insult. Isn’t his work full of life on its own?

The Van Gogh immersion was lovely and restful. You sit on beach chairs or lie on pillows while the projections change around you. Van Gogh quotes popped up at intervals, explaining what he was thinking about with his work. He was an articulate person; the quotes resonate. And he understood his own infirmity and finally solved his problem his own way (suicide). His life is tragic because he is loved now more than when he was alive. Why does that happen, when it’s too late?

During the experience, I never actually felt like I was in a painting, but the trip was well worth it anyway. I suggest you immerse yourself. It’s brilliant.

            — Sue Lange, producer/LE BON CHEF

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