Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide is its first showing in The Grand Pavilion, a purpose-built space, which will then tour Australia throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022 (COVID permitting). Van Gogh Alive is an immersive digital art show where Van Gogh’s works are shown, not in full in a frame on walls in a gallery but in enlarged segments, on large video screens throughout the space.
The North Adelaide purpose-built space comprises 4 rooms. You enter via what I’ll call the entrance room, off which a replica of the tiny bedroom as shown in the painting Bedroom in Arles has been carefully constructed. This entrance room also houses a ticket booth, merchandise and in the other corner a café, which is a recreation of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, serving a daily changing menu of French dishes.
Also off the main entrance room is a small enchanting space called The Starry Night room, which brings Van Gogh’s Starry Night to life – the floor and ceiling have been painted with large scale parts of Starry Night and strings of fairy lights hang from the ceiling to the ground. Mirrored walls make the space seem far larger than it is and it was proving quite popular for selfies when we visited.
This is all a prelude to the main event in the SENSORY4™ Gallery– where a 90-minute video plays on loop taking you through not just Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works but also moments of Vincent Van Gogh’s life. As your entry into this room isn’t timed from when you first present your ticket – it’s possible that you will enter part way through the video but it really doesn’t matter. We entered towards the end of the loop and stayed and watched it through to the end again.
The Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide experience recounts Van Gogh’s days from his Dutch period in his homeland The Netherlands right through to his days in the asylum in Saint Rémy. While Vincent had a very sad life, the experience itself is not depressing. This is largely because of the brightness of the artworks displayed throughout acting as a good contrast to the somewhat sad quotes displayed on the sidelines.
In our interview with Bruce Peterson of Grande Experiences, we asked Bruce “What made you choose Van Gogh as the subject?”. He answered it in the following way:
A couple of defining reasons, probably three.
First of all, we’re story tellers so whatever we do we need to be able to tell a story and to be able to educate people around that story. And Vincent has a slightly tragic story but a story to tell that we’re able to get across through the medium without spoken word.
Secondly, his artwork is really bright, colourful, big brush strokes, it lends itself to the medium we work in.
The third is his popularity, so it was going to be commercially successful, you know that’s the reality of things, we might be able to find good stories and great artwork but we might not have the brand or the subject matter that gets the visitors along.
In Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide, Vincent’s tragic story is told through quotes and significant moments of his life being signposted on side screens in the SENSORY4™ Gallery. The quotes relate to
- his love of painting:“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting”
“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”; and
- his tormented mind and his relationship with alcohol – we all know he was a fan of the green fairy (one part of the experience makes you feel like you are inside a bottle of sparkling green absinthe) and it was said to have been a factor in him cutting off his ear:“If the storm within gets too loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself”
“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me”.
Seeing Van Gogh’s paintings on such a large exaggerated scale allows the viewer to appreciate the brush-strokes and the detail in the paintings which one may not otherwise have the chance to get close enough to. Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide brings his works to life with the addition of moving elements – for example his Almond Blossoms are seen with leaves falling, when Starry Night is on the video screens, the luminescent water moves and shimmers and a shooting star flies across the sky.
The projections weren’t just on the walls but also on large areas of the floors, which enabled children to get up close to the art. In one part, where a train track was projected onto the floor and the sound of a train puffing along was played, children jumped onto the projection and ran along the tracks as if they were chasing the train. It was a great way to see children get involved in art.
The paintings are projected to a varied score of classical artists, which brought another enticing immersive sensory element to Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide. Music/painting pairings include:
- Carnival of the Animals VII Aquarium Jeff Megan to Starry night
- Lakmee Act I: Flower Duet – Jeff Meegan, Julian Gallant played to accompany projections of Van Gogh’s correspondence.
- Suite No. 1 for violoncello solo in G Major BMV 1007 I. Prelude – David Tobin, Jeff Meegan,
- The Cherry Blossoms Toshiko Yonekawa to Almond Blossoms
- Pizzicatto from Ballet “Sylvia” – the images change in time with the song
- Gnossienne No. 1 – William Masselos
And once you leave the SENSORY4™ Gallery, you enter the sunflower room – a room filled with sunflowers all around with mirrored walls, and a sky painted ceiling to make you feel like you are in a French sunflower field. Another popular selfie spot.
Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide is the immersive experience we all need at the moment – escapism, a taste of something different, international art that we can’t travel to see and in a way we’re not likely to see it again, and photo-worthy images to share on the gram.
Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide runs until 22 August in The Grand Pavillion, on old Le Cornu site on O’Connell Street, North Adelaide
WHAT: Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide
WHERE: The Grand Pavillion, O’Connell Street, NORTH ADELAIDE
WHEN: Until 22 August
Hours: Monday – Thursday 10am to 9pm, Friday 10am to 10pm, Saturday 9am to 10pm; and Sunday 9am to 6pm.
HOW MUCH: Adult $40, Children 2-12 years $25, Child 13-17 $32, Family of 2 adults and 2 children or of 1 adult and 3 children $115. Discounts are available for concession card holders, students and groups.
You can read our interview with Bruce Peterson of Grande Experiences here
For other events happening in your city and online, take a look at the August what’s on