Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Van Gogh and Gauguin at Les Baux


Yesterday I stood inside a painting by Vincent Van Gogh: surrounded, taken up and transported by colour and movement. Music by Saint-Saens seemed to push the images around vast spaces. Cornfields rippled and were echoed in different views, the starry night intensified above and below.

At Les Baux de Provence, the old bauxite quarry has metamorphosised into an extraordinary art venue. The current show is Gauguin, Van Gogh: Painters of Colours. The entrance is in a curtain of grey rock and gives little indication of the experience about to unfold.


An ordinary-looking door opens into a vast, dark and chilly space, and then the eye starts to make sense of the light show in progress. We arrived as huge yellow rush chairs appeared amid Arlesien street scenes painted by Van Gogh. On great rectangular pillars 14-metres high were pictures of and by the artist, all projected on different surfaces through the enormous chambers, and all moving languidly to music.


The theme of the exhibition is the different ways these two Northern European painters used colour to express their artistic release in the warmth and light of the South of France in the later part of the nineteenth century - Gauguin then famously travelling on to Tahiti.



It's hard to do justice in words to this astonishing artistic endeavour. We were left dumbstruck by the inventiveness and vision of the designers Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi. In these cavernous spaces, Les Carrieres de Lumieres is a permanent video installation, the largest in France, with 70 video projectors and surfaces that emblazon images on more than 6,000 square metres of wall, ceiling and floor. The result is just magical.

When we talked about it afterwards, what came through so clearly was that these are the kind of events the French do so magnificently. This is high culture: art, history and music all presented in a thrilling way. The music is of the period - Saint-Saens, Brahms, Ravel - and appropriate to the artistic movement of the time. All the images are from the paintings, and show the journey from cold north to Provencal landscapes and on to the South Seas in monumental scope and animation. There's no obligatory dumbing-down to make it "relevant" for young people as so often at home; there are no flashing lights and fast cutting to rap music. It is purely itself, and contains moments of indescribable beauty.

The exhibition will be on all summer and runs through until 6 January 2013.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great Blog today. will visit during the summer sojourn.
Peter

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

That is amazing! A really great concept.

Kelly Hashway said...

Wow! That's amazing.

Olga said...

I wish I were there :)

Connie Keller said...

Wow! I wish I could see it--amazing.

Maureen said...

That must have been fabulous.

Angela Bell said...

Thanks for sharing that it looks so fantastic.I would love to see that.great stuff!

My Sinfonia said...

Thanks for that Deborah...beautifully breathtaking

Pet said...

What a wonderful exhibition in such a wonderful place. I've been at Les Baux (twice) but I wouldn't mind a third visit now! Will the show still be on this summer?

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Yes, right through the summer and beyond. It runs until 6 January, 2013. Thanks for picking that up, Pet - I'll edit to put it in the text!

Tameka said...

I'm awe-struck with these pieces! So beautiful. Thanks for sharing your experience. :-)

Keith said...

Oh Wow. I want to go.

Thanks for sharing.

Pétales de fées said...

Thank you for this interesting post about an exhibition that looks very rich and very emotional! See you soon Deborah !

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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