Having a free afternoon in Paris, I decided to take advantage of the day and hit up the Musee D’Orsey. It’s one of my favourites with it’s huge collection of Art Nouveau furniture and full floor of impressionist paintings.
As it was the first Sunday of the month, the gallery was free so I was able to not only get into the museum, but also see the special exhibits. The month it was: Van Gogh/ Artaud: Le suicide de la societe.
I knew Artaud through my theatre studies – he was the creator of the Theatre of the Oppressed. But I never knew of his stays in the Asylum and that while he was in there, he wrote a comprehensive essay blaming society for Van Gogh’s suicide.
Two months from now, in the anniversary of the day Van Gogh took his life in 1890. He was only 37 years old.
At 27, he decided to be an artist. Just dropped everything and started to paint. At what point does someone turn everything on its head and say I’m doing that? I’m giving up on path for another? In only 10 years, Van Gogh created a body of work now touted as genius. But maybe it wasn’t a choice. Maybe he had to.
With a family member supporting him, Van Gogh created the Potato Eaters – dark, morose work. And then bounced from schools until he settled in the south of France where he painted a whole bunch of sunflowers and cut off part of his ear.*
I’m always interested in how creativity plays itself out. Finds a way. Eats at your insides. Makes you restless.
I haven’t been giving time to my own creativity. In fact, I haven’t given time for me to sleep or see friends or keep fit, so it’s understandable. In a way.
I have a love/ hate relationship with what I create
The idea comes and it’s painful to get out. I procrastinate more than anyone I know (this is purely a guess). I’d rather clean the house sometimes than work on my writing or edit a film. It gnaws at my insides to even think about it.
The deep despairs followed by the high elations. The hair pulling and long walks hoping the spirit rushes through me so I can grab it by the tail and just make. But for the last few years, it’s felt elusive. I’ve crowded out my creativity and i feel an aching hole where I used to feel the passion and drive to make.
In September, I’ll be the same age as Van Gogh when he took his own life. Artaud said:
Did he feel there was a limit to his time of creativity? 10 years was enough? Or was he so weighed down by society that he couldn’t see that one day his work would be coveted by the masses.
But still he tried. He took the leap. Picked up his trade and gave it everything he got, until he felt he couldn’t give anymore.
Do you feel you have given enough? Are you doing what you love? Have you pushed through the fear and give yourself completely to your end goal?
*This is a very truncated version of his successes and failures. See a full history of Van Gogh here.