Saturday 29 August 2015

Vincent Van Gogh: yellow on yellow on yellow...

Dear Vincent,

If you were alive today, you would be a blogger.

Last month, I saw your art
hung in the museum
built by your nephew-- your namesake--
in Amsterdam.

An urge to write--standing here surrounded by your art--grabs me.
I have no paper nor pencil nor pen.
I use my phone to type out lines,
holding it like a trombone.
My eyes give away my years; not that anyone is looking!

BTW, absolutely love the almond blossoms-
can't take my eyes off.
Have goosebumps when the audio guide mentions you painted it as a present for the new baby's parents, your brother Theo and his wife Johanna, to be hung in their bedroom.
Later in the museum shop, I'll buy the poster and start dreaming up plans to create my space around it.
Let's hope I actually get to it.

Dreaming comes easily; the doing takes effort and commitment.

Oh! I'm using your words in this letter as quotes--hope you won't mind.

LOVE the blue lines on the branches-- really cool.
Spring: the eternal symbol of new beginnings.

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, you painted your last picture.
Looking at your cypress trees and wheat fields,
it feels like a little bit of you is in each one of your paintings.
I can't decide if you painted the cypresses or the space they occupy;
the leaves on the tall swirling frames,
or the air they breathe.

Photo courtesy: Google Images.
 Image result for copy of van gogh paintings

The cawing crows look like blobs of your beating heart splattered on the canvas.
Yes, nod I, when I hear you say...

"You will certainly see that I have my own way of looking."

Feet firmly planted in a mishmash of heads, I spot
the lady guard watching us watching the sunflowers.
Only difference is that while her attention is heightened to stop anyone from clicking,
mine is lost in the yellow on yellow on yellow.

The idea that you hung the sunflowers
to welcome Gauguin to the Yellow House bowls me over.
A man interested in home decor?
I would follow your blog, if you were alive today.

I have to say though, it's not my favourite.
The heaviness of the flower heads makes me uneasy.
I can feel them
depressing me down.

Sunflowers are my grandfather's twinkling smile.
He grew them in his garden and let me take one to my teacher when I was little.
The hairy prickles on its thick stem itched my hands.
The flower nodded to the rhythm of my gait as I walked
to school:
happy, strong and carefree.

I linger a bit longer;
that's what you're supposed to do when you come face to face with a masterpiece, I suppose.
The lady guard's hawk eyes follow.
She moves her largish frame like a panther.
And glares down fingers from reaching for phones/cameras.

Heads and shoulders ebb and flow.
Headphones blab about the grains of sand embedded in these waves--
imprisoned by your palette knife.
When you become ancient history,
future generations will look at the grains
and unwrap the mummified mystery of your strokes.

I smile and climb the stairs to the next floor.
Vincent van Gogh, Fishing boats at sea, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Vincent van Gogh, Fishing boats at sea, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Cameras are allowed here, so I click a shot of your sketchbook...

Spotted this on the way to the museum -
harbinger of yellow.
Thought you might like it.

"Even in the city, Van Gogh is looking for nature." 
the audio guide tells me. I nod.

"I couldn't care what the colours are in reality."
continues the voice. I nod again.

Four hours later, I step out holding my poster wrapped in sunflowers and all I can see is yellow with a smidgen of red.

Click. Click. Shoot.

Your art and words seep in.

Streets of Amsterdam--for you...

Hare Krishna:)

This is too tempting not to capture. 
I use frowny overlays to keep things anonymous.

Bring this puffin home. It's been sculpted--paper on paper on paper by Judith.
She's on
Her art is as cheerful as she looks in this picture:)

Every night, the sky paints a different picture.
 "Love always causes trouble- that's true, 
but in its favour it energises."

 "The sight of the stars always makes me dream- 
in a simpler way as the black spots on the map representing towns and villages make me dream."

Later that night, I pick up a book to read in the apartment which is stuffed full of books.
'An eye-opening Art' is the page I open.
I'm hooked.
I read about your days in Arles, in the asylum and the author's trip to the olive grove.
I add the title to my book list.

I want to thank you Vincent for your art. 
You painted when you were sick. 
You painted when you were happy.  
You painted self- portraits to practise.
You painted despite the critics.
Your paintings didn't sell and still you painted.
You painted what you saw with your own way of looking.
You painted. 

So if I ever wonder why,
I will think of you
and your art
and get back to work.

Doing is us.
Doing it well.
Doing it often.
Doing it without expectation.
Doing it coz it makes us happy.

Whatever that doing may be:
writing, parenting, loving, singing, walking, cooking, gardening or

Thank you.

Dear readers,
All I can say is that the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is unmissable. DO BUY your tickets online. No point in wasting all that time waiting to get in when you could be drinking in all that art.

Here's an article about the sunflowers--in case you're interested.

Enjoy your weekend:)


  1. Hey Arti, thank you so much for this wonderful poetic and visual treat of Amsterdam and Van Gogh! Interesting that you liked the almond blossoms painting. We have a print at home, I think my daughter liked it and picked it up somewhere. Hope to go there someday and will think of you...

    1. Thanks Ketaki. Your daughter has good taste:) You'll love the museum...they've done a splendid job of balancing the art and the artist.

  2. Arti...loved that anything new ? You story made me smile, made me laugh, made my eyes brought back memories. Thank you..your poems spoke to my heart, so i do thank you from my full one.. BTW..i have the same print in my home..bought in the same museum, the almond blossom...loved the yellows..yes..i have Monet's suflowers, not Van G's....this is sunila...

    1. Sunila, all I can say is that your comments fill me up with so much gratitude-- feel connected, somehow. HUGS. XX

  3. Artiiii.....Amsterdam is on my bucketlist for the tulips but now thanks to you Van Gogh museum too !! Love your writing...Pls keep composing !! Love, Shef

    1. Thank you Shefoo for reading and commenting. As a photographer, you'll love the streets of Amsterdam, too. hugs. xx

  4. Arti, I have said it many times and saying it again you, girl ! The way your words flow from one sentence to another never once breaking the chain of thoughts and the reverie in which you bind us is just so great :D Love the post and yes, I must go visit Amsterdam just for this :) Thanks for sharing this with us . Much love !

    1. It's always feels special to read your comments on my blog Reshma. Thank you and love you back. xx

  5. Artii what a masterly and poetic account of Vincent and that extra under layer of wistfulness added to its worth. So are the pics a talking story. Thanks for the visual and verbal ride especially for me who would never be able to make it there.

  6. Artii what a masterly and poetic account of Vincent and that extra under layer of wistfulness added to its worth. So are the pics a talking story. Thanks for the visual and verbal ride especially for me who would never be able to make it there.

    1. Welcome to this space, vanderloost:) Thank you so much for your appreciation. Sometimes, I question my 'sharing' of poems --do they say what I think they say--but the 'look-at-me' part of me overpowers that doubt and I share.
      Your lovely comment made me very happy. I'm not sure why you used 'never' in your last line.
      Hope to see you here more often.

  7. Your words and photos just make me smile a thousand smiles. Thank you for taking the time to share them with all of us!

  8. And - we just got back from a traveling Van Gogh exhibit. It was so inspiring. The early stuff was so dark and moody, and as we walked through the exhibits, the canvases just got brighter, his brush strokes more wild. Such a drastic change in mood. We couldn't pull ourselves away, and I thought of you and your captivating words about art and color and self-discovery. What a beautiful life we're living.

    1. Thank you Tara:) I needed these words today 'what a beautiful life we're living.' I'm back at work after a 6 month sabbatical and missing the freedom BIG time!

  9. Hi Arti, its 6.00am sunday morning and I realized that its been a while I visited your blog. Did I miss a lot?.. and I sure did. I am here and find this , like a fresh breath of air! You never fail with your words.. always mesmerize me . Amsterdam is been on my list for its tulips, canals and Van Gogh. But your post is tempting me to make this trip sooner:)

    1. Thank you Prasanna. It's been a while since I've written or read anything in blogosphere- it's been a busy time. So glad you enjoyed this post. Hope you get to see the tulips and all things Dutch real soon. xx

  10. Arti! This is such a wonderful post in so many ways... your photos are simply stunning. I think I stared at each one for about 5 minutes. :) And the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam...your lovely words to him - such a tribute to what you had seen. I also love Van Gogh. I was only in Europe once (and I so want to go back!) but I saw a few of his paintings in the Musée d'Orsay - where, like you, I stood there for what seemed like a looooong time, letting the colours and brush strokes wash over me. I love how you ended this post - the words you chose were perfect. How he never stopped painting, despite the crushing odds of never having sold a painting. Thank you so much for taking us along with you Arti (so many beautiful photos here). I've missed you. xx

    1. Thank you for your kind words Pauline. I've put the 'almond blossom' poster up in my living room and I sit and stare at it for long periods of time:) xx

  11. I just missed this post.its beautifully written. Loved the ending...never stop doing what you love. As someone said just be curious and life would never be boring.


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