This is a bit of a different post, but I hope you still enjoy it!
Towards the end of January, I and my partner went back up to his homeland of Manchester for his birthday to spend some time with his parents, whilst we were there I saw that the new Van Gogh Alive Experience was happening at Media City in Salford on his birthday! I was able to grab us two tickets for around £25 each as well as an £8 guidebook which although it wasn't cheap, made a lovely souvenir.
So we headed off to the exhibition and I honestly didn't know what to expect, obviously I'd seen some parts of it online but I had no idea of the scale of the place or of the very emotional story it would tell.
As we entered the exhibition space there were prints of some of Van Gogh's most famous artwork on huge boards with really in-depth descriptions of what the paintings were, when they were painted, what Van Gogh was doing at the time that inspired the painting as well as telling you where you can find the original paintings in art museums around the world.
The exhibition focuses on telling the story of both Van Gogh's life as well as his artwork, you're taken on a fully immersive journey through his paintings in chronological order that detail where he was living at the time and what his life was like. The experience uses all five senses throughout, obviously sight of the paintings, there is a soft smell in the air that I read at the start is a mix of sea salt, oak, patchouli, and more earthy, musk scents which also leave you with a slight smokiness on your tongue, for your ears, there is classical music playing that would have been popular at the time of Van Gogh's life as he created different artworks but my favourite aspect was the sense of touch.
When I was looking the exhibition up online I kept going back to the pictures of the "Sunflower Room" which looked like a large room full of waist-high sunflowers to fully drop you into one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings. When we actually made it to the sunflower room I was really overwhelmed; as we had been going through the exhibition there was a huge focus on his declining mental health and due to the lack of public and medical knowledge, Van Gogh saw his own serious mental health issues as physical ones that he hoped would get better with antibiotics and rest...as we all know, this is often not the remedy for poor mental health. So you walk through his paintings, listen to the charging classical music, and read about this naturally gifted artist who was self-destructing with no one there to help him. Although fascinating, I found it very upsetting, and when we finally made it to the sunflower room it just set me off and I started crying, haha! There was something about being in a room full of sunflowers that are supposed to symbolise happiness, hope, and brightness in a time when he was so clearly reaching the end of his life that made it very emotional for me...but I am a bit of a baby!
Here we are in the sunflower room, the walls and ceilings were mirrored so although the room was probably less than 8 feet across and 7 feet high it felt like you were almost in a field of flowers!
From the sunflower room, you walk back out into the main event space where projectors show HUGE projections of his paintings (they must have been over 30 feet tall!) including the self-portrait you saw at the start, now imagine how I'm feeling when you read about his struggles with mental health, go through the hopeful sunflower room and come out to see this face staring down at you as you read that less than 2 years after Sunflowers is painted, Van Gogh ends his own life at the age of 37.
And that brought us to the end of the exhibition, it really did what it set out to do and took us on a huge journey in a relatively small space, there were only 3 separate rooms but we must have taken just under 2 hours to get through everything. At the end, as you come through the gift shop there was a little fenced-off area that you can see in the picture above, where you could try drawing/sketching and painting like Van Gogh! There were videos up on the screen demonstrating his style and you just followed along, but as there was a school visiting at the same time as us (a little annoying...) we decided not to have a go and went straight to the gift shop!
There was plenty to buy at the gift shop from posters to hats, t-shirts, and pin badges, so I bagged myself a pin badge of the Sunflowers painting and a large gift bag that had The Starry Night painting on it, I'm gonna reuse the bag each year for Christmas and birthday presents!
The last picture I've got for you is of me outside the exhibition with my new gift bag, please enjoy haha!
If you couldn't already tell from my write-up, we had an incredible time there, my partner said he loved his birthday trip out and was really glad we chose to go there. Although it is kind of expensive even just for two people to go, if you're really into history or art (or art history) then I think you'll love it, the exhibition has been made in such a thoughtful and informative way that it really keeps you interested the whole way round, we actually said we wish they'd made it longer!
The experience is staying in Manchester until 27/02 (my birthday!) then it will move to Edinburgh in Scotland and will stay there until the 17/07 at which point I think it will, unfortunately, be over, I'm not sure if the experience is going global or if it was just based in the UK but if you are able to visit the one in Edinburgh I highly recommend this wonderful experience and if you can't make it, I hope this little write up was enough of a taste for you to feel like you didn't totally miss out.
Just a quick note that I will be visiting family between Thursday-Monday to celebrate my birthday this Sunday, I will still be posting but just in case I'm late or miss any, that's my excuse!
My next post will be an upgrade of my favourite brownie recipe, so look out for that one in the next few days!