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Location: Washington State, United States

14 September 2006

A Turbulent Mind

I just read an interesting little blurb(this is copied from the article in Discover magazine- Oct. 2006). Apparently, the paintings that Vincent van Gogh produced when he was at his most psychotic depicted natural phenomena brilliantly. Two men from the National Autonomous University in Mexico plotted the swirls in van Gogh's most turbulent paintings, which coincidentally or not, were made during his most serious dips in mental health. Van Gogh's spiral brushstrokes are near-perfect renderings of turbulence. From the largest visible swaths of paint to the tiniest strokes , his brushwork seems to simulate river eddies and cloud rotations.
Starry Night was painted during a stay in a French insane asylum. Road With Cypress and Star was made after a prolonged bout of disturbing hallucinations and Wheat Field With Crows was finished just before van Gogh committed suicide.
They found that van Gogh's eddies matched the famous (although never heard of by me) Kolmogorov statistical model of turbulence. For a laymen like van Gogh, that's qite a coup, since the problem of turbulence is generally considered the last unsolved mystery of classical physics. It could be possible that van Gogh's mind, warped by disease , was prepared to grasp phenomena that have baffled physicists for centuries.
Van Gogh's talent with natural forms has made an impact in science before. Last year a study found that bumblebees thay had never encountered real flowers favored his Sunflowers over the floral works of other well-known artists.
I went to the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam when I was in Holland. It was absolutely fascinating. The exhibit was presented chronologically, and the first works were the black and white sketches made of the Potato Eaters, and as I moved through the museum, I could see his art change as his mental illness took grip. Towards the end, the paint is very thick and aggressively applied. He was very aware of his mental problems, and he wrote letters to his brother Theo describing his pain. He also committed himself voluntarily off and on into mental hospitals. If you ever have the chance to see van Gogh's work, go see it!!!



Blogger Lizza said...

Starry Night is one of my favorite paintings ever. And van Gogh's self-portraits are mesmerizing as well. He was kinda cuckoo, but then most geniuses are. :-D Wonderful post, inamini.

14 September, 2006 17:00  
Blogger alessia said...

Thanks for this post, he is also one of my favorite paintors... I especially love his trees. And his villages. they remind me of my childhood. I didn't know that about the turbulance though. I always thought his paintings looked a lot like my dreams.

15 September, 2006 04:35  
Blogger Kara said...

You know...a person shouldn't have to choose between mediocrity/sanity or genius/'s just not fair...for anyone. I weep for this unjust world.

15 September, 2006 08:47  
Anonymous Ghostrose said...

Hmm, yes, that's the absinthe. That's why he cut his ears off you know.

It's incredible that so much great art has been created while the creator was under immense stress or pain or depression. It's like things like that are the catalyst for the creative spirit.

15 September, 2006 16:16  
Anonymous Juancho said...

Hi Inamini,

Art is from the soul. You invest part of yourself into your work or performance.

Have a great weekend!

15 September, 2006 23:41  
Blogger INAMINI said...

Lizza, Alessia, Kara, Ghostrose and Juancho- Thanks for all your comments. I guess I relate a bit to van Gogh throught the mental illness link. He would be one of the dead people I'd like to have a converstaion with.

25 September, 2006 13:46  
Anonymous The Foo said...

my wife loves that Van Gogh's Sunflowers. She just loves everything sunflowers. I did see one of the other originals in the London Art Museum (England).

28 September, 2006 20:05  
Anonymous INAMINI said...

There was an exhibit in Seattle a few years ago, and we dragged my niece and nephew to it. I don't thing they were old enough to appreciate it, but hopefully when they are older they will realize how wonderful these paintings are.

29 September, 2006 15:39  

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