For an artist who started painting late in his brief life, Vincent van Gogh managed to create a portfolio of work with the ability to linger in people’s imaginations and enthrall viewers to this day, says Corey Ross.

“He’s a fascinating individual, with a made-for-Hollywood story, but it’s his genius as an artist that continues to endure and engage audiences, even 130 years after his death,” says the co-producer of Immersive Van Gogh.

Being exhibited in Toronto starting July 1 (with drive in previews from June 18 to 28), this 40-minute show transforms a massive, five-storey, 600,000 cubic feet industrial space (the former printing press facility of the Toronto Star) into colourful pastural scenes of southern France and awe-inspiring star-filled skies.

The exhibit uses video projectors and music to tell the story of the troubled van Gogh — he suffered from mental health issues, was institutionalized, infamously cut off his own ear and died in 1890 aged just 37 — and his masterpieces. “You’re seeing all the details; the speckles and brush strokes that you have never seen before,” says Ross.

But, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just more than 100 of the artist’s most-famous paintings — including The Starry Night and The Potato Eaters — enlarged to extreme sizes. Instead, van Gogh’s two-dimensional paintings are brought to life, filling the venue and giving the viewer a sense of sharing the space with the Dutch impressionist painter as he places brush to canvas. “Imagine that you are standing in the middle of the field of sunflowers he painted, and you see it sway. And, in The Starry Night you are seeing the stars twinkle and the clouds move through the sky,” says Ross.

Svetlana Dvoretsky, who is co-producing the exhibit with Ross for Lighthouse Immersive Productions, says the process started with a creative team visiting the venue, located at 1 Yonge St., and pixel-mapping the space, including its walls, pillars and beams. They then decided where the projectors would need to be positioned so elements of the paintings would flow across the floors, along the walls and ceilings, and around objects.

“What we are offering is another form of art which will hopefully evoke renewed appreciation, engage new audiences and create more fascination to the real art,” says Dvoretsky.

Ross travelled to the Atelier des Lumières in Paris to see the show when it was exhibited there. “On the way over, I kept thinking, ‘What is this show featuring projections that two million people have gone to see in Paris? You can go the Louvre and see incredible original art,” says Ross. “But when I got to see the digital van Gogh show, I understood the phenomena. This is a new way of experiencing van Gogh and it’s awe-inspiring.”

Immersive Van Gogh will be on display at 1 Yonge Street starting July 1. Timed admission tickets start at $34.99, with anytime admission starting at $44.99. Visit the website for tickets and information on enhanced safety features.


4 Places to See the Originals

The Starry Night, Museums of Modern Art, New York City

Van Gogh’s depiction of the night sky, inspired by the view from his window at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He painted the work in June 1889, during a 12-month stay.

Irises, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is home to Irises, another painting van Gogh completed in 1889 while in Saint-Rémy. Every iris in the oil creation is unique, and it is believed he was inspired by the asylum’s gardens.

Sunflowers, The National Gallery, London

Van Gogh painted sunflowers many times during his career. The National Gallery in London is home to a painting from 1888, when the artist was based in the city of Arles in Provence. The artist wrote that, to him, they symbolised “gratitude.”

Self-portraits, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has a number of van Gogh’s in its collection, including self-portraits made in 1887 and 1889. The artist painted or drew more than 43 images of himself during a 10-year period.