Feeling isolated? Depressed? Entertaining thoughts of cutting off your right ear? It could be pandemic fatigue. So put down that razor and get yourself to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. You’ll feel much better in an hour or so.

Highlights of Van Gogh’s impressive body of work – over 900 oils produced in just 9 years – are on display in a unique exhibit. Easy to get to by car along the expressway, or by GO train if you dare, the Toronto Star building, number One Yonge Street, once housed its massive printing presses on the ground floor. The presses moved north to Vaughan in 1992 and the space is now rented out to other tenants.

The current tenants are masterminds of technology. Creative director Massimo Siccardi and composer Luca Longobardi worked together to bring Van Gogh’s paintings alive on the concrete walls and floor of this cavernous space.

When you arrive, put on your mask and walk through the curtains into another world. The room has been transformed from a newspaper factory into a revolving art gallery. All shades of the colour spectrum glide by. Sunflowers and stars, trees and meadows, windows and rooms, appear in bursts of colour, travel along, and disappear into something else. In the background, music by an eclectic group of composers and singers – Handel, Bach, Edith Piaf, rock star Thom Yorke – elevates the exhibit to another creative level.

Van Gogh’s best works are represented in this show. (Vases With) Fifteen Sunflowers, perhaps best loved for their glorious yellow hues, dance across the walls. A single candle flame expands into a table with characters seated around it: The Potato Eaters. A farmer’s field seems to grow a bed, and The Bedroom appears. Stars on a background of brilliant blue float on walls and floors and become The Starry Night. Transitions from one work to another are fascinating. A hand seems to pull back one scene to reveal another. Wheat fields morph into irises which in turn become almond blossoms – a whole roomful of white almond blossoms on the most glorious blue background.

Van Gogh himself appears often, one time looking defeated, another time in a hat adorned with candles which he wore when painting late into the night, and again with a bandaged head where an ear should be. His erratic signature, written in red, foretells his future: death by his own hand at age 37; a huge loss to the art world at such a young age.

Visitors wander from one social circle to another, the circles lit from above onto the floor, as the paintings travel along the contours of the walls. Some circles are filled with benches or chairs, for those who wish to stay a while. In the centre, a staircase leads up to yet another view, looking down.

As visitors finally tear themselves away, their eyes and minds saturated with beauty, they exit – into the gift shop. Life in our consumer world is back in focus. Funky tee-shirts, biographies, socks painted with irises, umbrellas adorned with sunflowers are all on sale. A small bar/coffee shop provides a place to sit and reflect on the show. And perhaps to wonder at the genius who could not find contentment in his magnificent work.


3 thoughts on “Vincent

  1. Love what you wrote about my favourite artist…can you believe he never sold a painting except to his brother who burned them when he died and now they go for millions…..


  2. If this Covid 19 had not existed I would have been in Toronto to see this exhibition. I’m glad you saw it and through your writing I felt being there. Thank you Sue.


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