Van Gogh Exhibit in Singapore: The Immersive Experience - The Best Way to Enjoy Vincent Van Gogh's Artwork
The luxuriant 19th century Dutch Painter, Vincent van Gogh is prestigiously regarded as one of the legendary artists by renowned critics, painters, and art lovers. He painted beyond 2,100 artworks that are positioned in collections and galleries globally. Van Gogh was never really acknowledged for his paintings while he was alive. He only rose to fame after his death. But today, especially specifying the current era, his paintings are looked upon, highly praised and are taken utmost inspiration from.
If you appreciate art, there is no way you haven’t seen Vincent van Gogh’s work – whether in person or through images and videos. Now, masterpieces by the Dutch artist have come to life at the Southeast Asia debut of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at Singapore's Resorts World Sentosa on 1 March 2023.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a 360° digital art experience. It transforms the room into a dynamic and engaging art exhibition unlike any other you have seen before. Accompanied by an atmospheric soundtrack and spoken quotes from Van Gogh himself, the immersive experience brings the artist’s works to life through animation. You will be surrounded by the art and become a part of the masterpiece as it is projected around and onto you.
Van Gogh painted about 35 self-portraits in the space of only ten years, but only one portrait photo of Vah Gogh has survived. It shows him at the age of 19 with a slightly gruff expression. Almost everything else we know about his appearance comes from the many self-portraits he painted. No fewer than 35 of them are known. They tell us that he had red hair, green eyes and an angular face. Yet each of those faces is different.
Van Gogh produced his self-portraits because he wanted to practise painting people. The majority of them – over 25 – were done while he was in Paris (1886–88). He was short of money in that period and struggled to find models. So the artist chose the simplest solution and painted himself. To save money, he sometimes painted self-portraits on the back of other paintings. By doing that, he avoided the costs not only of a model but also of expensive canvas. Van Gogh often presented himself as restrained and serious in his self-portraits, with a look of concentration on his face. All the same, something of van Gogh's personality can be found in each self-portrait.
There are a lot more descriptions and anecdotes of his other well-known artworks showcased inside the exhibition room. I read all of them and got a glimpse into how he lived his life.
Largely self-taught, van Gogh produced more than 2,000 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sketches, which became in demand only after his death. He also wrote scores of letters, especially to his brother Theo, in which he worked out his thoughts about art. “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better,” he wrote in 1874. “Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”
Van Gogh is famous in all corners of the globe for his painting of sunflowers in a vase. But many people do not realise that he made multiple versions of this painting. These five artworks are now found at museums all around the world, from Tokyo to Amsterdam. The sunflower paintings had a special significance for Van Gogh: they were meant to symbolise gratitude.
When watching the performance, you can pick which Van Gogh printed deck chair you want to sit it. Each seat has an incredible view. But you may wish to switch seats throughout the performance if capacity allows. This gives you the chance to see the show from all angles.
Depending on the timing of your entry slot, you might arrive to the show mid-way through the performance. This doesn’t directly impact your viewing experience. Even though it is clear when the projection is intended to begin, simply take note of the point you enter, and continue watching until you return to that point. The performance is led by themes and concepts within Van Gogh’s works, as opposed to a chronological timeline, so you don’t need to worry about watching from the start.
I must say that the extensive floor-to-ceiling projections have promisingly amazed the audiences and enlightened minds with the unreal creations of the legendary artist. The projections animate the floor and all the walls around the visitors, creating a great immersive experience. The sound and light show lasted about 35 minutes and run on a loop with no beginning or end.
Van Gogh's famous Starry Night (1889) painting is dominated by a moon- and star-filled night sky. It takes up three-quarters of the picture plane and appears turbulent, even agitated, with intensely swirling patterns that seem to roll across its surface like waves. It is pocked with bright orbs—including the crescent moon to the far right, and Venus, the morning star, to the left of center—surrounded by concentric circles of radiant white and yellow light.
The Starry Night is based on van Gogh’s direct observations as well as his imagination, memories, and emotions. The steeple of the church, for example, resembles those common in his native Holland, not in France. The whirling forms in the sky, on the other hand, match published astronomical observations of clouds of dust and gas known as nebulae. At once balanced and expressive, the composition is structured by his ordered placement of the cypress, steeple, and central nebulae, while his countless short brushstrokes and thickly applied paint set its surface in roiling motion. Such a combination of visual contrasts was generated by an artist who found beauty and interest in the night, which, for him, was “much more alive and richly colored than the day.”
There is also an interactive recreation of one of his most famous paintings, “Bedroom in Arles,” in which you could “enter” his bedroom.
Now, I know a lot more about the story behind the “Bedroom in Arles”. In short, this is a painting of his bedroom in the ‘Yellow House’ where he once lived in Arles, south of France. In fact, Van Gogh painted three versions of his bedroom and sketched version of it in letters he sent to his brother Theo and his artist friend, Paul Gauguin. All versions of the painting conveyed “absolute restfulness”.
What I also loved about the performance was the use of Van Gogh quotes throughout. This distinctive touch gives a snapshot into the mind of the troubled artist as you join him on the highs and lows of his career. This intimate insight into Van Gogh’s mind makes the performance really moving.
There is a bittersweet feeling when you see the immense success of the artwork today. Particularly in these immersive experiences where visitors of all ages are enjoying them. This contrasts with some of the deeply troubling and depressing thoughts Van Gogh struggled with. There is a slight tinge of sadness that he never lived to see the enormous success of his work. It would be remiss not to also mention the impressive soundtrack that accompanies the performance. The music is cleverly composed to take you on the emotional rollercoaster experienced by Van Gogh, and it perfectly complements the projections.
Overall, the Van Gogh Immersive Experience is absolutely worth a visit. It is an incredibly moving celebration of Van Gogh’s art and does an amazing job of presenting it in a way like never before. The flurry of immersive Van Gogh exhibitions across the globe has demonstrated the success of combining art and technology to create a totally unique experience. The clever combinations of audio and projection mapping have brought a whole new wave of appreciation for Van Gogh’s art, from audiences young and old.
I am keen to see whether more experiences of this kind start appearing for other artists. It is absolutely an experience that was well worth the investment in a ticket, and I would happily experience again and again!
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will run until 1 October 2023 at the Forum Level B1 - Resorts World Sentosa - 8 Sentosa Gateway. The ticket price is S$24 for adults and S$15 for children. If you are ready to lose yourself within Van Gogh's artwork, get your tickets here.