Darran Anderson reviews the exhibition Van Gogh / Artaud: The Man Suicided by Society at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, on view through July 6, 2014.
Anderson writes: "The Musée d’Orsay exhibition, curated by Isabelle Cahn, links fragments of Artaud’s impassioned accusing essay to a formidable collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, and excerpts from Van Gogh’s letters to Artaud’s sketches. When it works, the effects can be invigorating and devastating. Dimmed by familiarity, several of Van Gogh’s paintings seem altered by the accompaniment of Artaud’s dissenting voice in the wilderness. If we have long passed the point of being able to view the paintings afresh, without the accumulated critical dreck, Artaud’s despair and righteous fury does lend an electrical charge to the works. The consensus that the wrongs heaped on Van Gogh have somehow been rectified by our adoration is undermined if not completely shattered. Consolation is not ours to give or take. It is not the case of some trite romantic suggestion that Van Gogh felt too much. Instead, there is often the sense that things are fraying at the edges and in glances… What unites Artaud and Van Gogh, as the complementary quotes underline, is a wounded hyper-lucidity; insurmountable pain, a deep appreciation of almost miraculous and transitory beauty, and a mania in enduring one and capturing the other."