The artist Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother in the fall of 1885, “I want to walk with you to find out whether we see things the same way.”
About 140 years later, millions of people around the world – thousands of them from the valley – can see the world like Van Gogh.
Beyond Van Gogh, a touring art exhibition honoring Dutch Post-Impressionists, has extended its run at the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center until 21 August.
The immersive experience, created by French-Canadian creative director Mathieu Saint-Arnaud and his team at Montreal’s Normal Studio, aims to put patrons inside more than 300 of the artists’ great works. Patrons will see paintings like “The Starry Night,” “Sunflower” and “Cafe Terrace at Night” not from the outside, but from the inside of the art itself.
“Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” takes the challenge of breathing new life into van Gogh’s vast body of work. Through the use of state-of-the-art 3D projection technology and music to illuminate all his talents, the guest artist can experience all his senses,” Saint-Arnaud said in a release.
The exhibition begins with a screen explaining the artist’s life. Empty picture frames hang in the air from invisible stars, a clue that van Gogh found beauty in everything and found art everywhere.
The exhibition shows that van Gogh found beauty in simple things. A pair of shoes, unused chairs, sunflowers, the faces of strangers and the Parisian night sky are some of the themes that come alive during the experience, which lasts for about an hour.
Using 30,000 square feet and four trillion pixels of light, the experience features the artist’s impressive and powerful work as patrons all around, above and below. Van Gogh’s loose brush strokes are recreated, swirling upwards and spins from side to side to maintain the look of the patron.
Birds frozen on Van Gogh’s canvas for more than a century are free to fly again. Portraits blink. The Dutch windmill once again spins in the wind, after dark as the tide rolls in. Visitors will find themselves on the beach, then in an orchard, then in a darkened room preparing potatoes.
The vastness of the prolific artist’s works comes alive in every color the artist can paint.
Van Gogh, a tragic figure, lived his life as an art dealer and later as a pastor before he failed to devote himself to painting – as it were. He lived in poverty and struggled with mental illness – he famously cut off his ear after a fight with his brother and perhaps his most famous work, “The Starry Night”, the scenes outside his window in a mental asylum was inspired by.
It is believed that Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Seven months before his death, he sold “The Red Vineyard” for 400 francs. Considering himself a failure, he committed suicide in 1890 at the age of 37.
Thanks to his posthumous critical reappraisal, Van Gogh is now viewed as one of the most influential figures in art. His works, more than 2,000 of which were completed over a period of nearly a decade, now regularly sell for tens of millions of dollars.
Perhaps the most breathtaking moments of the experience, in their own way, are when the screen is wiped clean with an invisible cloth or as rain. We’re left with a blank canvas, wondering “is it over”, but hopeful for whatever beauty lies ahead.
Perhaps in this way the exhibition successfully expresses the vision of Van Gogh – an artist who experienced the lowest lows, but also deeply saw the beauty of life.
Beyond Van Gogh runs until August 21 at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center Exhibit Hall 1, 2336 Kern St., Fresno. Tickets can be purchased at https://vangoghfresno.com.