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Jane Enkin reviews Imagine Van Gogh at the RBC Convention Centre-on until November 30, 2020

by Jane Enkin, September 24, 2020

Imagine Van Gogh
at the RBC Convention Centre
September 24 - November 30, 2020
"It's like swimming"  my daughter and I said simultaneously, as we emerged from Imagine Van Gogh.  Immersed in light, colour and sound, we felt every mood of the works of Vincent Van Gogh -- brilliant, gentle, somber, celebratory.
This exhibit features projections of works by Van Gogh onto large screens, surrounding the viewer. Classical music adds to the experience -- I recognized the Flower Duet from Lakmé by Delibes, the Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and a Bach Cello Suite. The music was loud but we were still able to talk, pointing out to each other wonderful details and our own impressions of the artworks. We were drawn to the curves and swirls of Van Gogh's skies, and the wavy lines subtly a part even of  the artist's paintings of buildings and streetscapes.
The projections move and change constantly (We stayed through the whole sequence twice to catch more of the experience.)  Sometimes the same work is explored on different screens, with a focus on the content, the famous brush strokes, a single intense colour, or an abstraction based on one detail.  At other times, one work is repeated all around the viewer, making one continuous range of hills or sweep of stars. Be sure to look at the floor, where the projections also shift and change.  Every image is beautiful, with great variety within that beauty -- delight in the exuberance of sunflowers, irises and apple blossoms, aching sadness in the artist's self portraits, and tenderness, in the painting of a couple resting in a field, and one of a father waiting open-armed for his toddler child. Thoughtful posed portraits are on view, and also landscapes with people passing through, and more spontaneous sketches of people on the street,   It was good to be reminded that even without the gorgeous colours, the black and white sketches are distinctively Van Gogh's own. Favourite, well-known paintings are here in dazzling detail, but also many I had never seen before, in museums or books.
In most museums that own paintings by Van Gogh, only 2 or 3 of his works are on display.  Even in a book about the artist, there are likely to be fewer than the 200 works in this exhibit. The motion, the huge scale and the insight into the artist's techniques and concerns are exhilarating.   The exhibit provides a refreshing new way to see this art for someone  familiar with the work of the great artist, and would be a wonderful introduction for someone who is new to the brilliance of Van Gogh.
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