The Power of Art (my dear Theo …)

24/11/2012 at 22:22 (Personal, Reviews) (, , , )


If you are any fan of Van Gogh, Expressionism or indeed nature at her wildest honesty, then you’ll enjoy this.

Mark well, the tears that burn his red-rimmed eyes, as Andy Serkis moves to new levels of thematic empathy – reclaiming the savage self-inflammation of the tortured artist, as he chews on paint tubes. Probably slicing his gums open in the process, on the metal that would tang off his teeth.

“Getting his fix of chrome yellow.” Simon Schama is at his most vernacular and sympathetic, adroitly handling the tenuous grasp on reality and familiarity which besieged Van Gogh all his life.

How well I know that earnest expressionism, that desire to grab everyone by the shoulders, spin them around with wide arms and yell “Look at this miracle, our world! Look at her wilds, her vastness, her indifferent beauty in the face of our agony, like Venus in Furs herself!” But I, as Van Gogh and others before and after, would be condemned a mad person. An over-extravagant, dramatic player. How very un-British. Worse – a crusader.

“My dear Theo …”

Never content, always astir, frantic and desperate, lethargic and fragile by turns, Van Gogh knew the people, he knew the mud and the toil they worked from with his own brand of Gonzo journalism – traveling among the lower classes, the white eyes among coal-black faces of the mines, the slag heaps, the wind-chapped hands and bare feet. He saw and embraced the world, knew its truths and its pain. He made the delicate people of society sit up and take notice, or at least tried to prise them away from their careful, wispy lives. He was in essence, to much of a muchness; an embarrassment, a shock. Not for him the pretty plainness of the Impressionists of that era.

Such pain. Such gigantic desire, to please, to portray, to prove … to lead towards a bright and glorious future. But while his mind spiraled with his paints, Vincent was born too honest to live – another doomed and blessed in the shadow of the Wall.

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