Fifteen years ago, my art teacher in primary school told us that 'van Gogh's paintings are too difficult for you to understand'. His words, which are still engraved in my memory, once made me believe that I had no sense of art. Until I joint an excursion of Studium Generale (SG).
One week later I received the confirmation email from Rob, the SG director, together with a handout of van Gogh's life story. Moreover, he required every participant, during the excursion, should choose one favorite painting and explain why. I regretted immediately because I thought I knew nothing about art, let alone doing art appreciation like a connoisseur. But with the curiosity about van Gogh's mysterious life, I read through the biography excerpts word for word. I started to realize his works may not really be something over my head, and instead I yearned for a glimpse of his works asap.
The excursion had two sections; one hour's individual tour and another hour's group walk to see each other's favorite piece. In the second hour, Rob's explanation impressed me most. His favorite was 'Still life with potatoes'; in explanation, he associated that seemingly flat painting with his knowledge on biology and compared it with Mondriaan's grid-based style. His original insight shed light on the greatness of the liberal education: the broader experience and knowledge you have, the more colorful world you own. His enlightenment reminded me a famous Chinese verse, which might also be a suitable sum-up for my interpretation of van Gogh's art:
Its front view looks like a ridge, its side view like a peak,
Far and near, low and high, its appearance alters all the time,
Although I might never recognize the mountain's true face,
It's pleasant enough to be amidst its embrace.
However, only four students joined the excursion. I'm still confused by the fact that on one hand many students grumble about the dreary life in this small town; on the other hand, so few students are really active in this kind of mind-opening trip, even if it's free. To me, their minds seem more difficult to read than van Gogh's works.
Vid of the week: A quick review of the collection of van Gogh's works in Kröller-Müller Museum.