Florence is slowly developing its artistic tastes to the modern visitor. Not only is it home to Renaissance art, which it is famed for, but also introducing innovative and revolutionary artists and artworks to the historical city. Two exhibitions I have recently attended, were the Van Gogh Alive exhibition and The Language of Flowers.
A new way to experience art
The widely successful Van Gogh Alive exhibition was showcased in the Church of Santo Stefano al Ponte, just off Ponte Vecchio, where the church usually hosts cultural and musical events. The exhibition demonstrated new ways to experience art, in fascinating and educative ways. The Van Gogh masterpieces came to life, in a vibrant symphony of lights, colours and sounds, combined and amplified to create an unforgettable multi-sensory experience. The way the artworks were depicted with the connection of the architecture of the church allowed the spectator to interact with the content, stimulate their senses and challenge their beliefs.
“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”
The Van Gogh Alive experience
The experience began with a series of Van Gogh’s self-portraits. The style and tone of these works depict the changing emotional state of this troubled artist. We were taken on a journey of the artist’s life through the creative universe and visionary art; with vibrant colourand turbulent events. The high definition of the projected images enabled a new vision and microscopic range of details of the works, where we could focus on his extraordinary, unique and avant-garde techniques.
The movement begins with Van Gogh’s Sunflower Series before transitioning to life, landscapes and people of the region, finally touching on Van Gogh’s love for Japanese art.
The first movement portrayed Van Gogh’s homeland, the Netherlands. This ‘Dutch’ period is stylistically dark; landscapes, people and still life are painted in subdued, earthy tones distinctly different to the vibrant style he developed in the following years, a style that would last the foundations of ‘modern’ art.
From the Netherlands, the experience moved to France. The artist is inspired by the energy of Paris and the Impressionist painters. His celebrated style slowly emerges as his palette brightens through transformation to scenes of bright flowers, gardens and fruit bowls.
Through the South of France to Arles, Van Gogh is filled with optimism and this painting is reinvigorated. The region represents perhaps the happiest and certainly the most productive time of his short life.
We were drawn into his own thoughts, expressed through a staggering number of letters written throughout the last 10 years of his life. Many of these letters contain sketches and descriptions of his paintings. They provided an amazing insight into Van Gogh’s personal and artistic journey. Together with the music, which was specifically chosen to reflect his artwork and emotional situation at the various points in this career, the exhibition was intense and moving, as we felt part of Van Gogh’s life and artwork.
The Language of Flowers
Flowers are part of the vocabulary of Gucci, no less than it’s signature double G logo. The latest exhibition at the Gucci Museum pays homage to the brand’s iconic Flora print, which was introduced in the 70s as a printed scarf for Princess Grace of Monaco, which has recently been created into a perfume. The floral iconography continues to be part of the narrative of the Florentine brand, even after the makeover work by Alessandro Michele, the new creative mind of the Gucci style.
The Language of Flowers is therefore the title and the theme of the exhibition, which depicts a small selection of works by four diverse artists; Marlene Dumas, Valérie Belin, Irving Penn and Latifa Echakhch, done between 1967 and 2012.
The power of seduction and sentimentality often related to the subject is juxtaposed with themes of memory, vanity, grief and even politics. The artists play on the ambiguity between human and plants, nature and artifice and presence and absence.
Single Oriental Poppy
Irving Penn having started his long collaboration with American Vogue, worked with editorial and fashion, dedicating maximum attention to the printing of his works. Here he expresses his awareness of the passage of time and of vanity.
-Steel, wood, shirt and jasmine necklaces
An artist from Marocco, her work creates a unity of dreams, symbols, motifs and indications. Her works resonate, in a deeply sensitive way, cultural tensions that are shaking our current time, the conflicts between particularism and Universalism, between individuality and community. Succeeding to empty the cultural connotation of the objects, typical of Arab culture and other cultures experienced, Echakhch considers them in the light of the aesthetics, but without abandoning the political significance, an essential part of her experience and of her critical positions.
With “Fantôme”, the artist evokes the memory of a street vendor of Beirut. To protect the freshness of his flowers, he covers them with a shirt, referring to the issues of the Arab Spring and the resistance to chaos.
A French photographer, her photography characterize a tension between an object and the body, nature and death and the human figure. The artist investigates the presence or absence of the body through different series of works dedicated to the Venetian mirrors and the lace dresses.
Born in South Africa, her themes are based on racism and sexuality, of the body and innocence, of violence and affection. More than just illustrating a real person, she represents through her paintings, emotions and a state of mind. Above, she rearranges the flowers from her mother’s coffin.
Overall, it is a thought-provoking demonstration of how international artists, ranging from different backgrounds, combine together to showcase their point of views, depicting nature in its natural and unconventional form.
Van Gogh Alive is on until the 2nd June 2015
The Language of Flowers is on at the Gucci Museum until the 20th September 2015