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'Beyond Van Gogh' Exhibit In Milwaukee Brings New Life To Vincent Van Gogh's Body Of Work

Beyond Van Gogh - Miami at Ice Palace Studios
Rodrigo Gaya Villar
Gayaman Visual Studio for Beyond
“Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” was created with 360-projection technology created by Normal Studios to add new life and animation to Vincent Van Gogh’s body of work.

Despite a relatively short career, Vincent Van Gogh created a striking body of work that still resonates with many of us. A new exhibit seeks to take the work beyond the canvas and immerse viewers in the same sense of freedom that inspired this world of paintings.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” was created by Normal Studio based in Montreal. It's now in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center through Sept. 19. Through 360-projection technology, new life is added and animated to Van Gogh’s body of work to help guests become one with the colorful canvases.

Mathieu St-Arnaud is the creative director and partner at Normal Studios, and he says the biggest challenge was presenting Van Gogh's body of work in a way that offered a fresh perspective and new connection for all audiences despite not physically presenting them.

"The same kind of freedom that Van Gogh took with painting, we took some freedom with his paintings to say, 'OK, how can we look at it differently? How can we step inside his world, his vision?' And we starting talking a lot about going beyond Van Gogh to meet Vincent," St-Arnaud explains.

The exhibit branches beyond the archetype of Van Gogh as a tortured artist and instead focuses on how he saw life and where he saw beauty, according to St-Arnaud. "Especially during this pandemic, it's a good lesson to find beauty where it is," he notes.

St-Arnaud says that Van Gogh's style of painting naturally lent itself to a 360-degree digital landscape — from the type of brushstrokes to bold colors and emphasizing a series of paintings.

Beyond Van Gogh - Miami at Ice Palace Studios
Rodrigo Gaya Villar/Gayaman Visual Studio for Beyond
Normal Studio's pre-visualization tools allowed artists to work and animate in real time to check out multiple vantage points within the exhibit.

"Already the paintings he created you lose yourself in it, you don't feel the boundaries," says St-Arnaud. "So by working with digital matte painters and illustrators to create what he did not paint and then animate this — there's already so much movement and vibration in his work that it's just easy to try and just bring it out a bit."

The simple manipulation of the paintings still preserve the original aesthetic and intent without transforming them too much, he says. The projections just hint at movement and add a bit of life to spark the imagination, St-Arnaud explains.

"Beyond Van Gogh" took just six months to develop since most of the tools for animation and projection projects have been already developed by Normal Studios.

"We have a lot of tips and tricks using a lot of previsualization tools that we've built. As the artists are actually working and animating, they can actually see the set up, the stage and walk around in real time as they're working so they can check out multiple vantage points," he notes.

St-Arnaud says that Van Gogh's style of art inspired him and his team to push their own creative limits. "[Van Gogh] didn’t really [think] of convention, he just did how he felt — that gave us a lot of inspiration of taking some freedom with his work to try new things with what he did and try to see it differently and be a bit bold," he says.

Beyond Van Gogh - Miami at Ice Palace Studios
Rodrigo Gaya Villar/Gayaman Visual Studio for Beyond
Mathieu St-Arnaud, creative director and partner at Normal Studios, says they were inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's freedom in painting and used the same mindset to step inside his world and vision.

Beyond showing a different way to look at Van Gogh's body of work, St-Arnaud hopes the exhibit gives people an opportunity to decompress.

"Art is a very personal process, and we wanted to give people the opportunity to take a break form their everyday life and actually look at his paintings. ... And if people feel slightly less stressed when they come out of there, they feel more relaxed, just a bit — we've accomplished our mission," he says.

Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
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