In Brief

Van Gogh in Virtual Reality

Scene from "The Night Cafe - A VR Tribute to Vincent van Gogh" (GIF by the author via YouTube)
Scene from “The Night Cafe – A VR Tribute to Vincent van Gogh” (GIF by the author via YouTube)

Orbs of orange paint suggested the light of the lamps past midnight in Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 “Le Café de nuit” (The Night Café), and in a new virtual reality take on his painting of the Café de la Gare in Arles, France, they come to life with radiating colors. The VR experience evokes his textural style and includes cameos from his other paintings hidden in the animated bar scene. Familiar sunflowers rest on a piano, the chair from his bedroom sits at the end of a hallway, and when you step outside, the sky swirls like in “The Starry Night.”

Created by New York–based developer Mac Cauley, the VR environment of the “The Night Café” is part of this month’s Oculus Mobile VR Jam. As he writes on the submission page, while Cauley explored reference material from van Gogh and contemporaries, he also imagined “what might have been there, just off the edges of the canvas.” An in-progress version is available to test out, and for those without a VR system, a video preview captures some of the experience.

Virtual reality sunflowers (courtesy The Night Café)
Virtual reality sunflowers (via “The Night Café“)

Van Gogh described the café to his brother as “blood red and dull yellow with a green billiard table in the center, four lemon yellow lamps with an orange and green glow. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most disparate reds and greens.” The Dutch artist himself appears in “The Night Café,” smoking a pipe and contemplating the harsh yellow floors and green ceiling with melancholy eyes.

Whether they take the form of an LED-illuminated bike path or a severed ear reproduced with genetic material from a descendent, van Gogh–inspired experiments always seems to be on the edge of technology, perhaps because of the rich possibilities in his vivid paintings and the psychological mysteries of the man. Cauley’s “Night Café” is an atmospheric meditation on what van Gogh saw over a century ago, and how virtual reality can take us inside a long dead artist’s vision.

Vincent van Gogh, "The Night Café" (1888), oil on canvas (via Yale University Art Gallery)
Vincent van Gogh, “The Night Café” (1888), oil on canvas (via Yale University Art Gallery)

“The Night Café” is available online as part of the Oculus Mobile VR Jam.

h/t Next Web

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