Into a world of torment and colour

Our editor Jon Sutton visits Van Gogh - The Immersive Exhibition.

Have you ever dreamt of stepping into a painting? To become completely immersed in the work before you, making reality around you fade into the new world created by the artist? In ‘Van Gogh – The Immersive Experience’ you can do just that, thanks to neat use of venues and projection, along with a virtual reality offering.

The exhibition showcases Van Gogh’s life in a new way: his time at the convent and in Arles, the secrets from the letters he wrote to his brother and more. We see how his paintings ‘bear the mark of his unstable, tormented personality’. For example, ‘Wheatfield with crows’, which many consider to be Van Gogh’s final work before he took his own life at the age of 37, symbolises his fight ‘against despair, loneliness and exile’. The picture, we are told, represents his anxious state of mind, symbolised by the dark, threatening sky, the empty, unpeopled field, and three roads going different ways to indicate decision. The presence of the crows creates an anguished atmosphere, as if proclaiming an inevitable fate. In these final works, the fields and plains of the countryside are empty. ‘No more peasants, not even a reaper. Only nature abides. For no-one.’

Van Gogh's use of colour gets special mention, including the idea that he may have been – like me – colour blind. The Van Gogh museum itself disputes that. But he was clearly fascinated by colour, saying 'colour in a painting is like enthusiasm in life'.

The exhibition isn’t cheap, at £38 for a family ticket which doesn’t include the VR experience (£3 per person extra). But I found the VR experience in particular well worth it: it takes visitors deep into Van Gogh’s life in Arles, travelling through eight works and their sources of inspiration: Vincent’s room, the meadows, the forest, the village and ending with Starry Night over the Rhone River.

The exhibition is on at All Saints’ Church in Leicester until 3 May and St Mary’s in York until 19 April.

Photo: Inside a recreation of Van Gogh's bedroom

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