Van Gogh Alive The Experience at Media City, Salford
By Seamus Kelly
Salford is the latest of 75 cities world-wide to show the Van Gogh Alive multisensory experience that includes projected pictures, quotes and information and lots of moving images and video, all supported by a soundtrack of classical music.
With such a track record we hoped to be impressed. Before entering the main multimedia, exhibit there is a chance to see, and have a photo taken, in a replica of the Bedroom at Arles, made famous by his series of three paintings, where Van Gogh stayed 14 months, including two months when Paul Gaugin stayed and worked alongside him.
Stepping into the large exhibition space the first impression is of being surrounded by the colour palette and brush strokes of Vincent Van Gogh. Seeing the works magnified on the large screens gives a strong feel for his bold brushwork and revolutionary use of colour.
The experience charts his career as a painter which lasted just 9 years until his tragic death in 1890 at Auvers-Sur-Oise. Van Gogh was incredibly prolific, producing over 900 paintings, as well as almost 1300 drawings and sketches on paper. The experience showed a wide range of his work from the very famous self-portraits, his Japanese inspired works, and his works from Belgium, The Netherlands and France.
With projections on the multiple screens, and even on the floor, often simultaneously showing different images, videos and quotations at the same time it pays to move around to view the experience from different positions. A very clever touch is the projection of paintings with some elements animated, e.g. crows flying over the cornfields or petals falling from the blossoming almond tree. A smaller room is filled with artificial sunflowers and with mirrors all around, including the ceiling, creating a powerful impression of being surrounded by the flowers that Van Gogh famously painted.
When leaving the exhibit visitors are invited to have a go at drawing versions Starry Night (in 5 minutes) and Bedroom in Arles (in ten minutes) guided by video demonstrations.
Whether you have little or a lot of knowledge of the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, perhaps one of the most influential modern artists, this experience is at once informative, entertaining, educational and powerfully moving.
Looking at art is good for the human spirit and as Vincent himself wrote “I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”