Before, we start writing paragraphs, before, we understand words, we start out with a pencil in hand and spiral scribbling on the paper. The confusion, chaos, absurdity of a child’s mind coupled with the calm inner poise, as the child allows the crayon to weave it’s own path drawing circle after circle and still not getting fed up. A little older and the child draws black smoke and brown huts, blood red screams and yellow bird titters, depicting the flurry of sounds emotions and the physical words with colors. Art is a form of expression so complete and so ingrained, we do not learn it the way we learn words, we are born with it. It allows our mind to pause, reflect and escape into our childlike fantasies, for art speaks out to each one of us differently, the silent story of the brushstrokes.
The starry night is one of those paintings I can stare at and drown in wonder at the mystery it promises, a childlike painting with an innocent stupor. Look a little closer, harder now, shut down your thoughts and stand still, let your eyes do the feasting. Marvel at it’s beauty and let yourself be carried away by the powerful force of it.
Right in the center of the painting, a church steeple rises high atop the rest of the houses skirting it. Co- incidence? I think not. However, the painting is dominated by the turbulent colors of the night sky, fluid and poignant, all of a sudden- the realization of the brilliant contrast of the moods catches my breath for a moment, the impact of the realization makes me makes me let go of it slowly but erratically.
Why of course, the night sky speaks of tempestuous weather, perhaps a warning from above of what lies ahead – some monstrous fate awaiting, the dishevelment and disorder in the heavens is threatening. The fluidity forces you to think something has set the heavens in motion, the peace and quiet has been disturbed.The scary and uncanny cypress tree, invoking despair, setting the mood further in. On the contrary, the town with it’s lights and static inert state almost provides a comforting sense of stability and security, the peaceful town blissfully unaware of the menacing war in the heavens above.
However, in the midst of such an overpoweringly gloomy tone, the bright yellow stars are set ablaze, the crescent moon bathing in golden light, again tempting our senses, seducing them out of despair. They are like the guiding light, we look at them and feel at ease, a warm protective glow reminding us of hope, of divinity, of all the goodness in the world. I start thinking tangentially now, those shimmering stars look to me like exploding rockets fired into the sky by men of the city, would they now betray the men and rain down upon them as some accursed fire governed by the fiery wrath of the heavens or would they settle there, golden orb-like-eyes twinkling and smiling, filling our hearts with the hope we feed on. Van Gogh, in his personal letters, described it as “a great starlit vault of heaven… one can only call God.” The religious inclination of Van Gogh is unmistakable, the religious inclination of mine as a typical twenty first century teenager is unmistakable. Yet I find myself submitting to his words.
The large halos of light, the evangelic glow of those golden bobs and the moon, the church steeple pointing towards it, all this alludes to a specific verse in the bible :
Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:9
The count of the stars in the painting is exactly eleven, which again makes it hard to believe in it as pure coincidence. Van Gogh with his painting invokes in me, the dreamer. And this part of me, I like best of all. I stare, sigh and murmur, “beautiful.” And while I am looking at this painting, all the world, all it’s people, mean nothing to me.