Van Gogh in Seoul

Since November, the Seoul Museum of Art has been hosting a collection of the vibrant and dynamic works of Vincent van Gogh in an exhibit called "Van Gogh: Voyage into the myth". This is the largest display of his works since 1990, when the Van Gogh Museum of Art in Amsterdam celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the artist’s life, so it's a special opportunity for everyone here in Korea.

I went to visit the exhibit with a few friends of mine one Saturday afternoon a couple weeks ago. We had to wait in a long line that wrapped around the courtyard outside the museum before we could warm our toes inside. But the sight of the bright colours on the canvases instantly made me forget about the chilly grey day outside. The long line-up outside translated to a slow-moving crowd inside, but we had fun guessing the titles to each work before we could wade through the crowd to see the painting up-close.

Walking through the exhibit, we followed van Gogh from The Netherlands to France. We saw his first major work, The Potato Eaters, a dark oil painting that was finished in 1885 while he was in Nuenen, The Netherlands. The following year, he moved to Paris, France, where he studied Impressionism and began to experiment with colour.

In the museum, Self-Portrait hung quietly on a wall all to itself, watching the chaos that surrounded the other paintings. We also saw Irises, which was painted in Arles after van Gogh moved there in 1888. He captured the landscapes around Saint-Rémy, with his characteristic swirls and spirals in the brushstrokes, during his year-long hospitalization there. The last three months of his increasingly troubled life were spent painting in Auvers-sur-Oise until he took his own life in July 1890.

Van Gogh has always been one of my favourite artists, something to do with our mutual adoration of colour, and he's always a source of inspiration for my own paintings. It was amazing to see so many of his paintings all together. Now that the exhibit is over, the paintings have to go back home to Amsterdam, but the colours will always remain here in Seoul.