a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Feb, 2020

Imagine Van Gogh (the Montreal edition)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

The girls were home for Spring Break last week. We did a lot of Family Things, much of which involved making popcorn and watching movies, and eating too much. I took the day off on Thursday. The youngest was going for an overnight visit at a friend’s in Montreal so we agreed to drive her and check out an exhibition we’d been hearing a lot about called Imagine Van Gogh while we were there.

I will summarize the drive to Montreal in one sentence: I’m glad I wasn’t the one doing the driving. Ugh. It’s awful. But I digress. We planned to arrive early for lunch, which we managed. We opted for Sushi Taxi, which was a good choice as it was close to Arsenal art contemporain Montréal (home of Van Gogh for the winter of 2020).

Lunch was good. I ordered a poke bowl. (Speaking of which, did you know it’s pronounced PO-KAY?)

Poke Bowl from Sushi Taxi, Montreal

We lingered over lunch and green tea and then decided to make our way to the Van Gogh exhibition. There are some very cute shops in that part of Montreal, including one antique shop that simply blew my mind. It was stuffed to the rafters with STUFF. There was a wall of boxes, a wall of glass containers, a wall of cuckoo clocks… I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take a photo. (But I did buy this bird-shaped thing. I am unsure how old it is or what its function is. If you have any theories, please drop me a line, ok?)

Bird sculpture (?)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked. Tickets to Imagine Van Gogh are timed, so we had to get moving.

I should mention that we congratulated ourselves on finding free street parking nearby. Paid parking near Imagine Van Gogh is very limited, and I think it was $15.

I kinda had a good idea of what this was going in. I knew that Van Gogh paintings are projected on to walls, but the truth is that you don’t really get the scale of the thing until you’re standing right in the middle of it.

Imagine Van Gogh, Montreal

You can walk around, or sit on the floor, or sit on a rock. (Yes, there were rocks there.)

Music plays, and the paintings are animated in a way that’s hard to describe. They are not static.Sometimes they slide across the wall, or disappear. It’s all timed to classical music; kind of a perfect pairing, really.

Imagine Van Gogh, Montreal

I liked how the paintings were displayed. Sometimes one painting was projected across every wall. Some of the walls have smaller screens, and that one painting would be cropped in a way to emphasize one aspect of it. It brings your attention to details you may not have noticed otherwise, like brushstrokes or use of colour.

Imagine Van Gogh, Montreal

The whole cycle takes about 30 minutes. We stayed for about 45, although I would have lingered longer. (I joked with Mark afterward that if I could enjoy it from a comfy sofa with a hot coffee in hand I could stay there all day. It’s very peaceful.)

There are display boards in the entrance that describe Vincent Van Gogh’s life, which, if you didn’t already know, was tragically short. He died by suicide when he was only 37, after many years of poverty and mental illness. As someone who couldn’t give his paintings away, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would have thought of his sunflowers being projected on a warehouse wall 50ft high, which people lined up to see.

We had a good discussion in the car on the way home. Is Imagine Van Gogh art? I don’t think it is. It’s a projection of art. It is art that is artistically displayed for people to enjoy, but it is not art. It was pretty cool though.


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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