Who would have thought paintings done by a man suffered from mental illness could become a blockbuster exhibition and appreciated by tens of thousands of people in more than 100 years time.
The paintings, revealing a man’s inner world through stunning colours, bold style, and brushstrokes inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, are not static. The pinenut trees and flowers, wheat fields and plain sky, all covered with layers of pigment and thick lines, making a statement of their own. I could also see a slim and lonely man sitting not far from them, rapidly sketching out their shapes, and fiercely making touches with his brush, or fingers.
Interestingly, his works have nowadays been recreated into replicas and become a source of income for peasant painters in China. In a Chinese village where there is no trees, no flowers, let alone wheat fields, the painstaking painters are self-teaching his techniques, applying them with their brushes, and perhaps adding a touch of their own imagination of the world he used to live in.
We all say that great art is invaluable, however when art becomes accepted, circulated, and a part of mainstream, they come in a price tag and distinct values. They then gradually form their own economy sphere — like the exhibition, the replicas, the moment another piece of work claimed to be inspired by Vincent.
As the end recipients of that economy sphere, we feel inspired by the strong energy and emotions those paintings convey to us and probably sympathise with the master’s suffering and experience. Behind that sphere, the struggle, isolation and frustration that once impacted or even drove the master’s works, may have been continued in today’s world, although in a different way.