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Jan Patience: Alive but not kicking… Van Gogh left me cold

© PADigital displays of van Gogh’s self-portraits
Digital displays of van Gogh’s self-portraits

I really wanted to like Van Gogh Alive, which recently opened in Edinburgh.

I love Vincent van Gogh. I’ve marvelled at his paintings in galleries, read books and watched films about him. I even own a Starry Night shopping bag.

Sadly, Van Gogh Alive, claimed to be the world’s most visited immersive art exhibition, left me cold. It was all too glitzy, shiny and well, immersive.

Van Gogh was a troubled genius whose light burned brightly during a decade-long career. The son of a preacher in the Dutch Reformed Church, he fought personal demons, and ended up taking his own life aged 37.

Watch: Van Gogh exhibition allows fans to walk into his paintings

Van Gogh toyed with several careers; including teaching and working for his family firm of art dealers, but at 27, he decided to become an artist. Gradually, his dark, Dutch Master-style palette morphed into the highly personal visual language we know him for today.

The lurid colours, vigorous brushwork and heavily delineated forms in his paintings still inspire artists today.

Entering Van Gogh Alive, his story is told through a series of large illustrated panels and a life size mock-up of his Bedroom In Arles paintings. Then we enter the main event; two rooms with large digital moving images of paintings, shown on the walls and floor.

Fridge magnet-style van Gogh quotes popped up and dissolved alongside the images of paintings. Classical music plays loudly. I couldn’t smell Provence. Maybe it was the mask?

The most disappointing part was a small mirrored room filled with plastic sunflowers – a nod to van Gogh’s famous sunflower paintings – filled with people taking selfies.

With that, you exit via the gift shop, stocked with van Gogh goodies, including a ginger bearded rubber duck with the signature “Vincent” on its backside. I didn’t buy one…

Van Gogh Alive is at Festival Square, Edinburgh until July 17.


When Erraid Gaskell graduated from Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in 2020 she left university without fanfare.

Her online degree show caught the attention of Becky Walker from the Green Gallery in Buchlyvie and now, two years on, Erraid has her own solo show in the Stirlingshire gallery.

Still only 24 years old, Erraid’s bold use of colours makes arrests the eye and draws you into her almost three-dimensional, dream-like, luminous landscapes. A must-see.