VAN GOGH ALIVE @ Supreme Court Gardens gets 7/10

Van Gogh Alive
@ Supreme Court Gardens

Thursday, May 26, 2022


To educate, you must first engage. It is from this principle that Grande Experiences was born.

Van Gogh Alive tells the story of Van Gogh’s life and works through five ‘movements,’ based on the five locations he worked. Each movement has its own instrumental score of recognisable orchestral pieces, chosen to evoke the emotions he endured at the time. The music is enhanced nature sound effects, such as the wind and birds. Van Gogh’s works – both the famous and the less well known- flow across perfectly synchronised screens. These are complemented by modern digital pieces, such as the slow motion unfurling of a sunflower, and quotes by the artist.

As a piece of art education, it is simply brilliant. More like a theatre than a gallery, you feel immersed in the artist’s world. The decision to not resort to a background narrator is inspired education. Too often we feel the audience needs a vocal narration telling you what you are seeing and how it should make you feel. Van Gogh Alive lets the art speak for itself.

Additionally, the gigantic screens allow you to view Van Gogh’s works in fine detail. The brush strokes and textures are clearly visible. In reality his works are quite small and such a study would not be possible in a traditional gallery. Pieces have also been digitally activated, such as the shimmering of lights on the water, or falling almond blossom petals. Unfortunately the touring exhibition doesn’t quite give you the full immersive experience of the permanent exhibit in Melbourne.

The exhibit starts and ends with rooms designed for Instagrammers – fields of sunflowers, the café terrace at Arles, chandeliers of hanging fairy lights – all perfectly set for endless selfies and social sharing.

Regards the practicalities, the main experience is in a grand pavilion with multiple enormous screens. The video runs on a 42 minute loop, and you may choose to sit or wander, and stay as long as you wish. The whole experience is wheelchair and pram accessible.

For true art lovers, choose a quiet time of day to allow you to sit and contemplate the works, rather than be distracted by crowds.

For the art teachers, there is more than enough space for a senior school art class to sit and sketch without getting in the way of other patrons.

For the parents, this reviewer would not be taking anyone under eight. The 42 minute sequence is mellow and reflective, and would stretch the patience of little ones. It also deals with themes of depression and suicide. Whilst the exhibition is billed as “family friendly,” this reviewer felt the shouting toddlers jumping on the floor screens ruined the atmosphere for other patrons.

While not for everyone, it is a must see for art lovers and art students.

Van Gogh Alive is at the Supreme Court Gardens until Wednesday, August 5 with tickets available from Ticketek.


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