© 2011 BHVU
Revenge of The Yellow House takes place at BHVU in parallel to the major Vincent van Gogh retrospective that is currently showing at the Royal Academy. Whilst the Royal Academy is full of actual, physical van Gogh paintings, BHVU is full of his ideas. The decision to invite seven artist friends to show together under one roof was directly inspired by Van Gogh’s visionary concept to establish an artists’ commune. Towards the end of his life, the infamous Nineteenth Century Dutch painter hoped to unite a group of creative and likeminded individuals, to live and work collectively at The Yellow House in Arles.
Van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles, the capital of Provence in February 1888. At this point in his career he said that he felt like a ‘worn out cab horse ready to be put out to pasture with other horses for company as free as oneself’. What followed was a highly positive and productive phase for the artist. In 14 months van Gogh painted 200 canvases and 100 works on paper. The warm climate and abundance of light suited him well. He took delight in furnishing The Yellow House in preparation for the arrival of Paul Gauguin. Together, van Gogh envisaged that the two artists would provide ‘shelter and refuge for friends, against the times when they feel the struggle is getting too much’. He also acknowledged, whilst ‘living in an unspeakably awful and miserable world for artists, when everything is in the hands of the people who grab all the money’, that living collaboratively would ease material strain. To his devoted brother Theo, van Gogh wrote of his dream; ‘I really do want to make it an artists house, but not affected, on the contrary, nothing affected but everything from the chairs to the pictures full of character’.
All seven exhibiting artists display a chair beside their work. This gesture echoes the two symbolic chair portraits that van Gogh painted at The Yellow House, one of himself and one of Gauguin. His own chair is made of wood and straw and is illuminated by the sun. The overall impact is one of earthiness, simplicity and clarity. Gauguin’s chair by contrast is more elaborately carved and painted at night by candlelight; it exudes an air of wealth, mystery and something unsaid. For van Gogh the latter was also a chair of mourning, for this was his friend’s empty place. Indeed, the mood of absence stirred by unfilled seats brings a melancholy reminder of farewell. Enthused by these two portraits, the seven artists of Revenge of The Yellow House each present a chair to reflect their own personality and to remember those now departed. Above all, the exhibition hopes to express the same relentless energy, enduring spirit and raw idealism that van Gogh did at The Yellow House.
Text by Rebecca Baillie
REVENGE OF THE YELLOW HOUSE
9th-18th April 2010
Eline van den Boogaard