Exploring Van Gogh: A journey through art and mind with immersive experience - Hindustan Times
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Exploring Van Gogh: A journey through art and mind with immersive experience

PTI | | Posted by Akanksha Agnihotri, Bengaluru
Apr 24, 2024 02:21 PM IST

Van Gogh enthusiasts Nikhil Chinappa and Hemali Vadalia collaborate on 'The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience,' currently captivating audiences in Hyderabad.

Here's the thing. No matter how much one "immerses" oneself in Van Gogh, thanks to technology, nothing will beat the experience of standing in front of the original, say, 'Wheatfield with Crows' and getting lost in the exquisite loneliness that Vincent Van Gogh captures in that double-square canvas.

The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience showcases the Dutch master's art in a 30-minute show, aiming to deepen people's understanding and appreciation of Van Gogh's work.(Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)
The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience showcases the Dutch master's art in a 30-minute show, aiming to deepen people's understanding and appreciation of Van Gogh's work.(Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

"I came face to face with Van Gogh paintings in 2001. I actually went to the Van Gogh museum only because it's what people do when in Amsterdam. 'Wheatfield with Crows,' especially, blew my mind," said Bengaluru-based Nikhil Chinappa, co-curator and producer of 'The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience' which encapsulates the Dutch master in a 30-minute show.

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However, Chinappa believes most often people need to be nudged towards art. "Immersive shows does that brilliantly. Van Gogh is popular, no doubt. But that does not mean that people know him. For that one needs to understand what drove that man, and why he painted the way he did. These are things that we present in our show, which I hope would plunge people further into his art, would want them to go to museums and art shows in search of his work," he added.

The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience is currently on in Hyderabad, till May 5, at Hitex Exhibition Centre. It began its journey in Chennai, between March 13 and 24. "The response was so good that we had to extend it twice now," said Chinappa. Mumbai-born Hemali Vadalia, artist and animator, who is based out of New York, said she had to deal with her contradicting feelings while curating the show.

"Somewhere, I did feel a little icky about commercialising art to such an extent. But in my defence, I agreed to do the show because of my love for Van Gogh. I know if not me, someone will do it. At least I can do justice to the man," said Vadalia. Incidentally, Vadalia was part of the fully hand-painted animation film, "Loving Vincent" that was nominated for an Oscar in 2018.

"Van Gogh is almost an obsession for me. I have studied him enough to know when his dots become dashes and dashes become more curvy. When I put together what I know of the man, what I wanted to point out to the world, it became a 200-odd pages document. This became our go-to reference for Van Gogh while we were putting together the show," said Vadalia. Chinappa said the penny sort of dropped for him when he was going through the tentative timeline that Vadalia had put together, linking Van Gogh's work and his state of mind.

"I knew that he grappled with mental illness before tragically ending his life. That is part of Van Gogh's charm – his works were so colourful despite his doomed life. But it never occurred to me to connect his illness to the choice of the most prominent colour in his later works – yellow," said Chinappa.

Chinappa said it is believed now that Van Gogh might have been suffering from Digitalis poisoning – in those days digitalis, an extract of foxglove plant, was used to treat epileptic seizures that Van Gogh was prone to.

"Science has now established that one of the side effects of excessive exposure to digitalis is people see things in a yellow haze. This could be the reason for his yellow phase. When I put this in perspective, a lot about Van Gogh work made sense to me,” added Chinappa.

Vadalia said when people connect the dots, and understand the context behind the works of art, they will invariably feel more connected to art. "This makes me feel vindicated that I, an artist myself, choose the immersive medium, which some feel is cheapening art, to tell his story," said Vadalia. Naveen Kiran Boktapa, a Bengaluru-based animator, who had helped Vadalia digitally animate the works of Van Gogh, said the challenge of enhancing the works of a master that the world considers perfect is part of the reason why he chose to join the project.

"Finally, after many attempts, we decided to highlight the exact moment that Van Gogh wanted to freeze forever in his paintings by animating the moments leading to it. For instance, we made the sailing ships bob and the waves curl before they froze into the scene painted in 'Seascape at Saintes-Maries," said Boktapa.

Incidentally, last year BookMyShow put together an immersive Van Gogh experience titled 'Van Gogh 360' in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. But Chinappa said their show uses the more vivid, 22k lumen projection. "We are bringing this to India for the first time," added Chinappa.

He said he would love to host the show in places like Hubbali. "But it costs a lot to mount a show like this. I can't tell you how massive the air-conditioning cost itself was. Technically, we have all the things in place to restructure the show to suit the space available. If we could get some corporate sponsors, we could do this in tier-2 cities as well," said Chinappa.

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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
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