The Irish brothers bringing Van Gogh paintings to life

4 days ago

The Van Gogh experience at the RDS. Image: Theatre of Light

Daniel and John Gleeson are using technology to help people ‘step into’ Van Gogh paintings at an immersive art experience in Dublin’s RDS.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but one Dublin art exhibition has been offering people an escape – using technology to bring to life the artworks of Vincent Van Gogh and making his talent shine as bright as the stars in The Starry Night.

Van Gogh – An Immersive Art Journey is a three-month art ‘experience’ that has been running in Dublin’s RDS. It was created by Irish brothers Daniel and John Gleeson in collaboration with international creative studio Nohlab.

The concept behind the exhibition is simple. It makes the most of existing audio and visual technologies to give visitors the impression of ‘stepping into’ Van Gogh’s paintings.

“We didn’t want to just offer what has been done before,” Daniel told SiliconRepublic.com. “We wanted a reimagining of the experience, looking at how Van Gogh’s paintings may have evolved and been experienced if they were created today.”

The idea for this project came about in late 2018 when he visited the Atelier des Lumières, a digital museum in Paris that centres around immersive experiences.

“I was amazed by this large-scale immersive attraction projecting colourful works of art from Van Gogh onto the walls and floors of this old iron foundry in the heart of Paris.”

Having travelled to more than 10 similar experiences around the world, he was able to study the exhibitions and identify what worked and what didn’t, before deciding it was time to shine some of that light on Dublin.

‘Ireland’s largest ever immersive art experience’

The two entrepreneur brothers spent the last three years, including most of the pandemic, researching the market, finding the right technology and partnering with the right content studio to create a world premiere in the Irish capital.

“Orchestrating Ireland’s largest ever immersive art exhibition during Covid presented many challenges,” Daniel said. “The team who supported Theatre of Light in bringing a show of this scale to Dublin did an exceptional job with most of the planning for it being done over Zoom calls.”

Van Gogh’s self-portrait on display at the exhibition with a person standing in front of it and staring.

Van Gogh’s self-portrait on display at the exhibition. Image: Theatre of Light

Theatre of Light is a 3D immersive experiences start-up founded by the brothers in 2019. Determined to bring Van Gogh to Dublin, the Gleesons got in touch with Istanbul-based studio Nohlab for some creative help.

“Nohlab used different technological techniques to firstly digitise the artworks, then make them come to life by transforming them into modern moving and ever-evolving artworks through artificial intelligence,” Daniel said.

“If you can imagine with 34 high-powered projectors, over 67,000 frames and a resolution of 155,000 pixels – this was the largest projection event ever in Ireland.”

Nearly 100,000 footfall

Since its opening on 16 May, the Van Gogh event in the RDS has been visited by more than 75,000 people from across Ireland and beyond. With its final show scheduled for tomorrow (4 August), the team expects this figure to cross the 100,000 mark.

“The customer feedback for the exhibition has been overwhelmingly positive,” Daniel said. “We’ve been lucky to have received lots of observations on what elements of the attraction visitors liked or disliked over the three months. This was always an important priority of ours.”

Van Gogh Dublin has had some high-profile visitors since its opening, from celebrity chef Donal Skehan to presenter Ray D’Arcy, and Rosanna Davison and Chris de Burgh.

“Since opening, as soon as visitors leave the exhibition hall, they have spotted and engaged with our feedback wall. We’ve valued this feedback and we very much intend to incorporate some of these lessons into the design and planning of future exhibitions.”

While the Gleesons are still working on finalising what their next exhibition will be on – including the possibility of an Irish-themed one – they are now looking for venues across Dublin, Cork and Belfast to play host to their next fantastical getaway.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com