This is at first appears to be a most unusual exhibition, in that the gallery space is given over to large cubes, on four faces of which are reproductions of many of van Gogh’s paintings, while the inner walls of the gallery space carry a repeated reproduction of his 1888 painting, Starry Night Over The Rhone.
The reason for presenting the paintings on large cubes is presented at the landing point by a cube bearing a quote from van Gogh, “I would rather paint on big cubes, but I can’t carry them”. Also at the landing point is a brief biography of van Gogh, that provides a broad thumbnail of his artistic output and the tragedy of his life.
Some of the reproductions include The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise (1890), The Langlois Bridge at Arles with Women Washing (1888), Olive Grove (1889), The Cottage (1885), Still Life with Lemons on a Plate (1887), Pietà (1889), several of his self-portraits, and a two-walled reproduction of The Starry Night (1889). Between the cubes and walls are several settings suggestive of café spaces, possibly a reference to van Gogh’s mixed view of such places, of which he once said, “I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime” whilst referencing his 1889 painting, The Night Café.
It is the range of paintings present here that makes this an interesting exhibition: while some of van Gogh’s more famous paintings are shown (notably, perhaps, the Starry Night paintings), so to are perhaps lesser-known studies, such as from several of his collections: shoes, flowers, people at work, and so on, while there is a balance between his oil and watercolour works. There are also possible references to some of the less considered aspect of van Gogh’s life, such as his relationship with religion, as seen through Pietà.
My only complaints are that the use of the cubes, coupled with their size means that viewing some of the works on offer can be difficult. my second is that the paintings are presented without any supporting information – and given the selection on offer, some additional note cards / panels offering insight into some of the themes of van Gogh’s work could encourage a greater appreciation of his work.
Nevertheless, this is still an exhibition worth seeing for anyone with a love of van Gogh’s work. And I confess that while visiting it, I was once again reminded of another tribute to van Gogh’s work, that of Robbie Dingo’s Watch the World. Made far back in 2008, it takes viewers of on a time-lapse journey through the in-world recreation of The Starry Night. The build itself has long gone, but is commemorated in a couple of videos from Robbie, and I’m embedding the 2008 version, presented to Don McLean’s 1972 hit, Vincent, here.
ArtCare Gallery (Prychek, rated: Moderate)