Arts, OldVenue

Meet My Artist: Van Gogh

Most people think of Vincent Van Gogh as the stereotypical tortured artist – the guy who cut off his own ear. He’s a popular figure in art, but to anyone not doing an art history or an art degree, this doesn’t really mean anything. The only thing we know is that he must have been a pretty good artist, because he’s famous.
What originally interested me about Van Gogh’s artwork was its simplicity. Unlike Picasso, whose strangely shaped figures I find confusing and unrealistic, Van Gogh gave me paintings of scenes I could actually relate to. In his 1888 canvas Café Terrace at Night, there was something very exciting and vibrant about the colours he’d used – it made me reminisce the evenings of some of my continental holidays.
In contrast, his 1889 canvas, The Bedroom, had a calm, nostalgic feel about it. The colours were plain and simple, and there was very little shadowing. Van Gogh wrote of the piece: “looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather, the imagination”. This quote spoke very strongly to me – firstly because you don’t have to be a world renowned art critic to link the idea of ‘resting’ to the prominent bed in The Bedroom. Secondly, because I was beginning to understand what Van Gogh’s artwork was really about: his paintings reflected his feelings. You can sympathise with the artist, and build up a connection with the painting. The painting itself then becomes important to you.
With this revelation I looked up more of Van Gogh’s work, and inevitably came across Starry Night of 1889. At first glance the scene looks dazzling, but the more you look at it, the more unsettled it seems.
The majority of the painting uses curves instead of straight lines, and the effect is surreal. This is partly because, instead of imitating scenes as he had done in previous works, Van Gogh painted Starry Night from memory. It is also partly because it shows Van Gogh’s inner turmoil.
Yes, I know, I’m doing that arty thing where you read too much into a picture that is just supposed to look pretty. But hear me out. The sky is painted with curves and swirls. It is anything but peaceful. It reminded me of an upset stomach. And then you realise, that’s what Van Gogh was feeling. Maybe he had a spicy curry the night before, I don’t know. What I do know is, for the first time I can understand where the art critics are coming from. There is definitely some inner turmoil going on in that picture.
Van Gogh has opened up to me a whole world of art and its criticism that used to be an exclusive club. That said, if you don’t have the slightest interest in art analysis, I would still advise you to look him up. The paintings, minus the analysis, are still incredible.

09/12/2014

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ellenmorris