Vincent Van Gogh
winters in Montreal
Until April 5, the Arsenal de Montréal is hosting the immersive exhibition Imagine Van Gogh
Until April 5, 2020, the Arsenal de Montréal will host the immersive exhibition Imagine Van Gogh, curated by Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron in collaboration with art historian Androula Michael. This unique artistic experience offers a playful journey through Van Gogh’s work, accessible to all.
This unique artistic experience offers a playful journey through Van Gogh’s work, accessible to all.
The very concept of Imagine Van Gogh is exceptional: visitors walk through giant images extracted from the painter’s paintings. The details, the touches, the material and the colours literally take them away and make them live an extraordinary experience where all the senses are awakened. Impossible to remain insensitive in front of so much beauty! Spectators will discover more than 200 of the artist’s paintings, including the most famous, painted from 1888 to 1890, in Provence, Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise.
A UNIQUE IMMERSIVE EXHIBITION
The exhibition Imagine Van Gogh reveals the painter’s world of colours and emotions by inviting us to travel through his paintings. Visitors wander through giant images extracted from Van Gogh’s pictures. The details, the touches, the material, the colours make for an extraordinary experience where all the senses are awakened. This artistic approach in Total Image, imagined by Annabelle Mauger, plunges the spectator into the heart of the painted works to explore the details.
A true technological achievement, Imagine Van Gogh embraces the 1450 m² of the Arsenal. Made on-site and to measure, 8-metre high screens welcome the image of the works and adapt to the height of the space. The immersive experience associated with this verticality is one of the strong characteristics of this artistic work of art, which is suited to each space invested.
More than 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings are thus projected as Total Image. The works go beyond their frame to gain space in a continuous flow. Immersed in darkness, guided by the unique luminosity of the works, each person experiments this presentation with a personal approach. Free to choose their own path, visitors, who become actors, look in several directions without time constraints. They venture freely into Van Gogh’s work, accompanied by musical works by both Van Gogh’s contemporaries and current composers. (Saint-Saëns, Mozart, Bach, Delibes and Satie)
‘The exhibition Imagine Van Gogh reveals the painter’s world of colours and emotions by inviting us to travel through his paintings.’
Music amplifies the immersion experience and offers new sensations that open up a space conducive to dreaming and contemplation, guided by the eye and the ear, not knowledge. Everyone is carried away without suspecting the technical and technological performance of such an exhibition. “Didactic in its content and moving in its form, this exhibition is to be viewed with new eyes,” says Androula Michael, art historian at the exhibition. “To open a space of emotion, dream and contemplation for all audiences, including the youngest, is the ambition of this immersive exhibition accessible to everyone, regardless of age, language or culture,” says director Annabelle Mauger.
VAN GOGH, FROM PROVENCE TO AUVERS SUR OISE
It is between Provence and Ile-de-France that Vincent created his most beautiful paintings. We follow this itinerary and penetrate Van Gogh’s pictorial work during this period, starting with his portrait from which two blue eyes emerge staring intensely at us as soon as this journey begins.
Sky and sun, landscapes, city and country scenes, villagers, peasants, still lifes, misery and human joys take shape in turn and colour the canvas under the gaze of the painter contemplating the end of the century. Van Gogh indeed loved to paint what he saw, while at the same time exacerbating all figuration. Therefore the field of interpretation is immense for each canvas.
A TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGE OUT OF THE ORDINARY
We mainly understand images under a conformist and strict aspect that is limited to spaces and volumes: this is the classic or “screen” image (television, computer, cinema, simple projection). All these forms render the spectator passive, both physically and intellectually. The directors claim here a new approach to the artist’s works by fragmenting them and modifying their scale; they thus penetrate the smallest details of the work down to the artist’s brushstrokes, whose raw reality they reveal.
In the 1960s, the filmmaker and photographer Albert Plécy, a friend of the great Jean Lartigue and Robert Doisneau, himself founding president of the famous association Les gens d’Images, had the idea of directing his research towards inventing a revolutionary projection process. Examining the techniques of photographic capture and projection, Plécy’s ambition was to achieve “total vision” in order to succeed in drowning the spectator in the image. It is no longer the viewer who looks at the image; it is now the image that looks at him and attracts him, forcing him, in awe of the Total Image, to give up his reading habits.
‘A true technological achievement, Imagine Van Gogh embraces the 1450 m² of the Arsenal. Made on-site and to measure, 8-metre high screens welcome the image of the works and adapt to the height of the space.’
It all really began in 1975, when Albert Plécy finally chose the unexploited site of the vast abandoned quarries of Les Baux de Provence to create his Cathedrale d’images and two years later inaugurate his own audiovisual creation there. Thus was born Plécy’s Image Totale in 1977, after two years of research, development and installation. As the spectators walk through the site, they are immersed in the image. This total immersion in the work is reinforced by the synchronized diffusion of a musical soundtrack.
Having selected the areas, angles and sizes of the image projection, but also determined for the spectator a path integrated and immersed in the Total Image, Plécy substitutes the notion of passive spectator, sitting in an armchair and looking at an image on a screen for that of active spectator, introduced into a universe of images in which he evolves as he wishes, in total freedom. By choosing the location of dozens of visual projection sources designed to display images ranging from 50 to 100 m², or even more, on more than 4,000 m² of natural screens, and by playing on the distribution of volumes, edges, angles, walls and all surfaces, Albert Plécy has created a unique artistic creation.
For this large-scale installation, the combined projection surfaces have been completely adapted to blacken all dark areas. The Arsenal made it possible to set up a tailor-made scenography comprising more than 2,000 m² of projection space. “Technically, the music had to be synchronized with the video projectors handling HD content. We had to ensure the synchronization of the music with the video-projectors managing the HD content and use a complete fibre-optic network,” explains Julien Baron.
‘It all really began in 1975, when Albert Plécy finally chose the unexploited site of the vast abandoned quarries of Les Baux de Provence to create his Cathedrale d’images’
Ultra-fine adjustments made by the team at an extremely high level of expectation allow for impeccable rendering. The projected surfaces are continuous and homogeneous, illuminated by several projectors that give a feeling of absolute sharpness. “It was necessary not only to place the fixtures in precise locations but also to make software adjustments to control the influence of each projector on the others,” adds Julien Baron, co-director.
CUTTING-EDGE TECHNIQUES AT THE SERVICE OF THE ARTISTIC PROJECT
Julien Baron brings his technological skills to the whole project, always driven by the same desire: to highlight the artistic project and not the technical prowess. In order to increase the emotion tenfold, the most efficient technologies are put at the service of the works, multi-projection and immersive audio allow the visitor to plunge into the heart of the works.
More than 40 HD video projectors gracefully illuminate the Arsenal’s architecture. Viewers can, therefore, wander freely among the images and discover the painter’s works in a different way. The sound environment, which reinforces the impression of immersion and increases the sensations tenfold, allows visitors to be an integral part of this spectacular environment.
A TEAM OF PROFESSIONALS
In 2000, Annabelle Mauger discovered the Cathédrale d’Images in Les Baux-de-Provence thanks to her companion, Timothée Polad, grandson of the founder Albert Plécy, and together they very quickly took over its management. As the first historic site for audio-visual creation in total image recognized throughout the world, he offered new immersive shows every year. Since 2011, with her co-director Julien Baron, Annabelle has replicated the concept and travelled with her exhibitions from Singapore to Las Vegas without ever stopping looking for places to recreate a new Cathédrale d’Images. In 2017, Imagine Van Gogh was held in the Grande Halle de La Villette and proved to be a great success. In 2019 it was in Lyon, in collaboration with the architect Rudy Ricciotti, that she offered us to discover Picasso’s work from a new angle, before setting up Imagine Van Gogh in Montreal.
Passionné d’audiovisuel depuis toujours, et après avoir étudié les techniques du cinéma, Julien a réalisé plusieurs courts-métrages animés, clips, vidéos, avant de rejoindre lui aussi l’équipe de Cathédrale d’Images. Pendant trois ans, il participe à la conception des spectacles audiovisuels immersifs sur Venise, Cézanne, Picasso puis Leonard de Vinci. Avec Annabelle Mauger en 2011, il adapte Van Gogh dans le prestigieux Art Science Museum de Singapour. De la scénarisation d’Imagine Van Gogh et Imagine Picasso à sa réalisation, le respect de l’oeuvre peinte est présent dans tout le travail d’Annabelle et Julien. Les années passent, la technologie évolue et Julien veille à ce que cette technologie s’efface devant l’œuvre magnifiée de l’artiste.
‘More than 40 HD video projectors gracefully illuminate the Arsenal’s architecture. Viewers can, therefore, wander freely among the images and discover the painter’s works in a different way.’
Julien has always had a passion for audiovisuals, and after studying cinema techniques, he directed several animated short films, clips, videos, before joining the team at Cathédrale d’Images. For three years, he participated in the conception of immersive audiovisual shows about Venice, Cézanne, Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci. With Annabelle Mauger in 2011, he adapted Van Gogh in the prestigious Art Science Museum in Singapore. From the scriptwriting of Imagine Van Gogh and Imagine Picasso to their production, respect for the painted work is ever-present in all of Annabelle and Julien’s work. As the years go by, technology evolves and Julien ensures that this technology recedes in front of the artist’s magnified work.
Androula Michael is an art historian, a specialist in Picasso and the 19th and 20th centuries, a teacher at the University of Picardie Jules Verne and an exhibition curator. She took up the challenge of collaborating on this project aimed at the general public. She accompanied Annabelle Mauger in her exploration of the work and understanding of the artist, driven by the desire to translate Van Gogh’s biographical and artistic journey into ever greater coherence.
THE ARMOURY: AN EXCEPTIONAL VENUE
Inaugurated at the initiative of collectors Pierre and Anne-Marie Trahan, Arsenal art contemporain Montréal is housed in a building of more than 7,400 square metres built in 1846 and formerly part of the Marine Works Canada shipyard. Since the building’s conversion in 2011, Arsenal art contemporain Montréal has been offering interdisciplinary programming that reflects the artistic movements of the 21st century. It houses several private collections, artists’ studios, exhibition spaces, and is also the site of corporate, private and philanthropic events. The location also houses the Majudia private collection, the private gallery Division and space offered to an artist in residence. In 2013, in association with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the competition Les Ateliers was launched to encourage emerging artists in contemporary art.
In view of the exceptional interest aroused by this project by Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron, Tandem expositions announced its extension until April 5th, 2020. Tickets are now available for purchase.
Imagine Van Gogh
Arsenal Art Contemporain Montréal
2020 William Street, Montréal
A Paul Dupont-Hébert production, Tandem Expositions and Encore Productions
Open from Tuesday to Sunday until April 5, 2020
Tuesday, Wednesday from 11 am to 7 pm, closing at 8 pm.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, closing at 8 pm.
Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm, closing at 8 pm.
Exceptionally open on Monday, March 2nd.
Consult the ticket office for available packages
Images courtesy of Imagine Van GoghOther articles on visual arts