Yesterday I learned that over his short life Vincent Van Gogh produced more than 900 paintings and numerous sketches – the maths of this creative frenzy works out at one new artwork every 36 hours.
Ironically, I learned this as I sat in stillness and silence surrounded by a few of his best-known pieces at the Van Gogh Immersive in London.
Sitting still does not come easily to me. My thoughts are so often in control that I am forever jumping up or moving on in response to them. By contrast, at yesterday’s exhibition, I was able to slow myself down enough to just sit, on a bench in a high-walled chamber, in which Van Gogh’s paintings were projected all around me.
A tractor moved slowly across a golden hayfield, stars as big as planets twinkled against an inky night sky, boats drifted in and out of view on an estuary.
And I sat, seconds turning to minutes, turning to half an hour and beyond, not feeling any need to get up or speak or start planning what we would do next.
I felt awe at Van Gogh’s achieves, the brightly coloured paintings which show us more of life, more depth, more colour, more seeing, than we have managed alone.
But there was sadness too, at the restlessness behind his genius. The knowledge that in his short 37 years on this planet he never learned to sit still.
I wonder what more he might have achieved had he done so…
And that’s the real, tragic irony of this exhibition. That in order to experience life through his frenzied eyes we had to stop. Stillness is, after all, where the light comes in…
- Where – and when – in your life do you need to just stop and sit in stillness in order to appreciate what you are creating?