New exhibition reinterprets Van Gogh's letters to his brother in light of prevailing socio-political issues

A three-day event recently held in Pune explored various artists' interpretation of letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo. Titled ‘Van Gogh’s Letters Retold’, the exhibition showcased artworks and performances ranging from classical dance to puppet shows and sand art, among other forms.

Sushmita December 10, 2019 10:07:12 IST
New exhibition reinterprets Van Gogh's letters to his brother in light of prevailing socio-political issues
  • Van Gogh's Letters Retold, a three-day event that was recently held in Pune explored various artists' interpretation of Vincent Van Gogh's letters to his brother, Theo.

  • Through his lifetime, Van Gogh wrote around 651 letters to Theo.

  • These letters show Van Gogh's journey as an artist, besides shedding light on his relationship with his brother.

‘Van Gogh’s Letters Retold’, a three-day event that was recently held in Pune explored various artists' interpretation of Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother, Theo. Organised by Pune-based group Art Lane, the exhibition concluded on 24 November, showcasing artworks and performances ranging from classical dance to puppet shows and sand art, among other forms.

Through his lifetime, Van Gogh wrote around 651 letters to Theo. These letters show Van Gogh's journey as an artist, besides shedding light on his relationship with his brother. Not only was Theo Van Gogh’s artistic adviser, but was also his closest confidant, discussing with him matters of love, life, family, other artists, and more. Their correspondence is known to have marked a joint struggle for the ‘art of the future’.

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

Starry night, moving skies, and almond blossoms in kantha stitch

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

Smita Raje, Artlane Kalagoshthi’s co-founder’s installation allowed people to write to Van Gogh in picture-postcards made of the photographs she has clicked over years.

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

Artist Raju Sutar, one of the pioneers of modern art as it exists today, wrote to Van Gogh in multi-coloured postcards.

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

Zereh Lalji’s version of 'Bedroom in Arles'

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

'A Step towards Inclusion': Painting in Braille

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

"Van Gogh shared a deep connection with his brother. If there is someone in your life with whom you share a deep connection, tie a knot," said the artist of this installation.

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

'Sunflowers in Mud'

New exhibition reinterprets Van Goghs letters to his brother in light of prevailing sociopolitical issues

Uttam Ghosh's 'The Scream'

'The Scream' is based on Van Gogh’s last letter to Theo. Artist Uttam Ghosh says he set out to finish what Van Gogh left incomplete. Particularly disturbed by the events in Kashmir over the past four months, Ghosh took elements of the last letter, the essence of Van Gogh’s paintings, and combined the two with one of his favourite styles — Pablo Picasso’s Cubism. About his painting, he says, “The black cat is representative of the people, riddled with pellet wounds and the many who are under arrest. The dark man with a yellow hat is the peasant since Van Gogh called himself a painter of peasant life. The plough in the painting is an additional element, along with the gun and not from what Vincent had planned in his last painting. It symbolises the Kashmiri flag, which doesn’t exist anymore. Sheikh Abdullah's Naya Kashmir had a Land to the Tiller slogan and land reforms were implemented in a big way then. I don’t think any other flag has a plough symbol on it.”

The exhibition makes one see Van Gogh in a new light. Despite the fact that most are aware of the origins of his artworks, it poses an additional challenge to take his legacy ahead and demystify his work in a more topical, prevailing premise.

Sushmita is a researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies (IIST), University of Erasmus. She is also an art enthusiast, a photographer and painter herself. She tweets at @Sushmitav1, and can also be followed on Instagram @sue_me123.

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