When: Monday to Wednesday 10.00-19.00 and Thursday to Sunday 10.00 to 22.00 until 4 August 2022.
Where: Hall 2, Shelbourne Hall, Royal Dublin Society, accessible by foot, bus, and car.
Van Gogh Dublin: An Immersive Journey combines the traditional masterpieces of Van Gogh with new technological approaches that use light, sound, and AI interpretation. This limited time exhibit is perfect for anyone with an interest in art and futuristic technology, in addition to helping out a good cause as a portion of each ticket sale is donated to the Pieta House, a free, professional therapeutic service.
Located at the iconic RDS, the approximately 40 minute long immersive journey is no run-of-the-mill Van Gogh exhibit – rather than focusing on the history of the painter’s life and art, the show focuses on experimental aesthetics. The 20,000 square foot area provides plenty of space to sit (chairs are provided), lie, and walk around as the light projections fill every inch of the room. The unique set up makes this exhibit a one of a kind experience, but if your goal was to learn more about Van Gogh’s life, this may not be for you.
In my detailed journey below, I will guide you along the experience with some context on the paintings and themes shown throughout the show.
The introduction balances between light and dark, contrasting deep reds, blues, and yellows – reflecting the turbulent and unpredictable life of the painter. The journey begins with personal letters and drawings from throughout his lifetime. The walls are painted with strokes of chrome and ochre yellow, the floor with ultramarine blue, as Van Gogh’s series of portraits appear brightly.
Powerful orchestral music plays as the colours fade into olive green, raw umber and sienna, and we see his series of peasant paintings. We then travel into a bright summer village as the music fades into a soft accordion tune, to his series of melancholy blue self portraits, such as Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889), and Self-Portrait (1889) . As we enter into Van Gogh’s Japanese-inspired works, the room is filled with traditional Japanese music and themes of red and white cherry blossoms.
We then travel, through tunnels of light projected on the wall, into Arles, France. The art
begins with themes of yellow, bright farm lands and forests, and through the classical music we can hear wind travel through the leaves and birds sing. Sunflowers (1889) appear, flowers and petals float along the floor, and we travel into the centre of the sunflower, until the screen becomes black. As the show continues, it is like we are stuck within the dark centre of the sunflower, unable to climb back out. From this point on, the art revolves around deep prussian blue and black.
The projections take us silently into an empty bedroom, then to the sombre cafe night scenes of Arles. The room fades into silence and the screen goes black. From what is supposed to be Van Gogh’s point of view, eyes open slowly as a static sound becomes increasingly louder, and the room is abruptly filled with yellow. We travel through many of the pieces Van Gogh created during his time at the Saint-Rémy hospital, including Irises (1890).
We are elevated by futuristic sounds as projections of a night sky swirl into Starry Night (1889) and Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888). The swirls from the starry paintings transform into AI interpretations of Van Gogh’s work. There are rich fall reds and yellows, and shapes that mould into trees. Abstract interpretations of sunflowers and farm lands glide across the room into a final state of colored beams. The beams interconnect to form Van Gogh’s portrait, surrounded by colourful paint strokes.
Van Gogh’s immersive journey comes to an end as we move on to a short animation from Nohlab titled Everything. Like how we travelled through time with Van Gogh’s art, here we travel through time and space as a light particle. As described by Nohlab, the “visuals & sound follow a narrative where science, philosophy and metaphysics converge”. The presentation questions existence, being, and creation.
After the exhibit ends you can enter the gift shop followed by an instalment of a large Van Gogh colour by numbers, as well as art supplies to create your own masterpiece and hang it on the wall. The show ends on 4 August 2022, so if a futuristic Van Gogh light spectacular is your kind of show, definitely check out the exhibit before it’s too late.
“Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful”
Van Gogh, 1874
Warning: This exhibit is not suitable for those with photosensitive epilepsy.