"The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need.
The world never needed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it."

-Louis I. Kahn, Architect

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Homage to Vincent Van Gogh

Exactly 120 years ago, in July 27, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh walked out into the fields around Auvers-sur-Oise and shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died two days later.
Yet, by all our criteria of "success", Van Gogh was a failure.
Before deciding to become an artist, he had had two unsuitable and unhappy romances and had worked unsuccessfully as a clerk in a bookstore, as an art salesman, and a preacher in Belgium. In 1886 he went to Paris to join his brother Théo, the manager of Goupil's gallery and to study Art. He encountered the Impressionists and began to lighten his very dark palette.
He decided to go south to Arles where he hoped his friends would join him and help found a school of art with Gauguin. A violent row started between the two which led to total disaster. After the row, Van Gogh ended up cutting a portion of his own ear lobe off, wrapped it in newspaper, and gave it to a prostitute named Rachel. In May of 1890, he was sent to the asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment where he met with Dr Gachet and where he painted "The Starry Night," one of his most famous paintings.
Some two months later he was dead, having shot himself "for the good of all."  He felt a burden to his brother’s family, and a failed artist.
The Red Vineyard
Van Gogh's finest works were produced during his three last years. He produced over 2,000 works and sold only one during his life: The Red Vineyard.
Although today, these paintings can fetch tens of millions of $ at auction and enrich many collectors, they were worthless during his lifetime. Nobody bought them. One day, he even begged for meat to his butcher against one of his paintings. The butcher refused his offer. 
History is cruel. His Doctor Gachet portrait was sold in auction for $82.5 million, an auction record. A Japanese industrialist multimillionaire Ryoei Saito bought it and took it to Tokyo, where he left it unseen by anyone for seven years. He joked about his wish to get the famous painting cremated with him. Since he died in 1995, nobody really knows who is the new owner of Dr. Gachet portrait or its location.

I have painted a portrait of Dr. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it. . . . Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done. . . . There are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later.

The best way to learn from a master like Van Gogh is to copy him. So did I and as homage, I chose for my painting’s quiet backdrop his Noon, or The Siesta, (after Millet, 1890). 
I used real gold paint instead of his so-called “Van Gogh’s yellows” to paint hays.
I believe had he the opportunity, he would have used it as he was a fond admirer of Asiatic and Japanese art.
Depending on the gold’s reflections and your angle's viewpoint, you will see Vincent’s dying and (logically)  colorless body to appear or disappear... 
I also found his brush technique very energetic yet easier and more natural than I thought (no wonder he painted so many pictures!). He clearly loved hays as it is natural for his brush strokes technique.
I also understood that when he was painting colors, they were not just “vibrating” but also very "material". Van Gogh was treating light and colours as he would have treated concrete matter, and vice-versa. In Van Gogh’s mind light was BOTH a wave (vibration) and a particle (matter). It was a sort of artist’s take on the “wave-particle” famous scientific paradox.


The true artist is living on the edge of life, like walking a tightrope with no net.
He is admired for his incredible aerial feats, his freedom yet his admirers hope he will fall, he will fail. This is their thrill. This is why he is tapped on the back in hope one day he will.

Van Gogh fell but didn't fail.

No comments:

Post a Comment