ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

#WEPff post--The Starry Night -- CONSTELLATIONS as seen by Vincent van Gogh

The October challenge for Write...Edit...Publish (WEP) is to write to the prompts, CONSTELLATIONS or HALLOWEEN or a combination of both.
The minute Yolanda ran the idea of CONSTELLATIONS by me, Vincent van Gogh's painting, The Starry Night and Don McLean's tribute, Vincent, came to mind. 

I've long been fascinated by van Gogh and have visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam which holds 200 of his paintings, 400 of his drawings and 700 of his letters. 

So, I've gone with my van Gogh inspiration, taken some poetic licence with the blurry facts of his life and death, weaved in some direct quotes from him, added relevant paintings and painting detail, and come up with a creative non-fiction piece from Vincent's POV.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889
Displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Darkness of the Soul

The Starry Night.

The curving lines of hills, of mountains, of sky are silhouetted in the dying breath of day. The brilliant colours of blues, of yellows, of greens, take on a mystic hue when no sun lights their fire.

As the fit overtakes me, I clench my fists and imagine…

All colours blending into one.
Colours changing hue.

Flaming flowers brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze…

Taking ragged breaths, I hit my head against the cypress tree outside the compound This tree is one of many planted as a windbreak by farmers long ago. Waves of wheat with shuddering golden stalks roar like the sea and crash in the goddess-blown winds. Morning fields of amber grain, a bronze curtain, flicker through my mind.

Colour. The life present within colour. Colours with a life of their own.

I wrestle with how to find an adequate means of portraying a spiritual experience through my application of colour. Colour represents the value of existence; it represents life itself.

I gaze mesmerised at the countryside surrounding Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. Long before sunrise, the sky is empty of everything but the morning star, then lesser stars appear one by one.  

The mountain range of the Alpilles dominates the fields of corn, the rows of grapes and the groves of olives across the valley. The mountains shimmer with the power of God as He sprays constellations across the horizon in a broad band of light.



The night is even more richly coloured than the day, coloured with intense violets, blues and greens. Some stars are lemony, others exude a pink, green, forget-me-not blue glow.

I must capture the shifting landscape of the night. I must capture its beauty, its majesty, its terror. I must impress in my works the harmony, the organised unity of nature.

Now in July of 1889, in the quaint village of Saint-Rémy, the time has come to finish what I have begun.

I press my bandaged ear, quieting the voices. The only voice I crave is the voice of God.

I set my canvas and render my night imaginings, not en plein air, but in the studio gifted to me for the duration of my stay.

What a contrast to the sky of Paris. Here in France profond, the sky suffers no interference from gas or electric street lights or garish shop fronts. 

The sky here is as pure as God.

I have painted the starry night over the Rhone, but now I will paint the starry night over my little village.

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night over the Rhone,1888

The sky I will paint is blue, bluer than the irises I love to paint. Those voluptuous irises, those crammed, ripe, moist excesses of nature anchored in the warm red soil. That contrast between the deep blue of the finely-drawn buds and the bold green leaves with their tongue-like forms against a backdrop of the light green flowering meadow. They radiate light from within, creating that balanced connected harmony I crave.



A cosmic happening is taking place. My brush and the canvas are as one.



The stars, whorls of yellow and white, are a reflection of my beloved sunflowers or the summer wheat at harvest.  Two gigantic spiral nebulae entwine; eleven enormously enlarged stars with their aureoles of light break through the night. The winding, wavy curls reach their tendrils towards the rising sickle of the unreal orange-coloured moon which overlooks the star-lit village. Bathed in moonlight, the houses are barely visible, lumpen shadows, short, sharp dashes amongst the trees. Dominating the shadowy village is the silhouette of the lone church, its spires reaching towards God, reaching towards salvation.



But the church is temporal. So I imagine the swaying cypresses in the foreground to resemble church spires—nature overpowering man-made structures.



It is not so much the language of painting as that of nature which one must listen to.

By flickering strokes of my brush, my cypresses reach upwards like green flaming tongues; even the edges of my painting will not constrain their unbridled growth.

They are as beautifully-proportioned as an Egyptian obelisk. Why has no one else rendered them the way I see them?

The brooding landscape comes alive, my brushstrokes pure and true. My fingers move in arcs of crazed creativity. I must finish before the fit takes me again.

Finally, it is done.

The night landscape I imagined will live on forever in minds which accept the elemental things of life, such as nature, objects, people, joy, salvation…



The night wraps around me like my mother's arms as I hurry through the fields to my death.

‘Mother! Mother!’ 

I can no longer exist in this world of staggering turmoil.

I spin through the darkness of the soul and my overwhelming fear. I wrap my arms around my beloved cypress tree. I am deep below the surface of my life, choking, gasping, retching. 

I am desperate for air, but not desperate for life.

I have nowhere to go. No one to help me with the demons that taunt, the thoughts of suicide that scream in my head.

I am ready to play the role of a madman, although I do not have the strength…

How does one end life? A shot to the head would send me spiralling like those yellow stars reaching out for the yellow moon.

My guard sleeps, his mouth a smile of utter blissfulness. He dreams of a saner world than mine. If I had the time, I would paint him…

Will I be watching from above as they ponder my death? Will I be as one with the night sky? Will my brother forgive me?

My stomach explodes in shards of bitter pain. I fall onto the sweet grass of Deep France, watching the starry night fade, the colours blend into one as life ebbs away.

I have reached the stars…I am one with the heavenly constellations…


REFERENCES:
The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Van Gogh, Ingo F. Walther, TASHEN Press

979 words
FCA


This story is an entry in the WEP October challenge.
Please go HERE to visit more entries or click on names
in my right sidebar.






62 comments:

  1. I felt sorrow for Vincent at the end of the story with the glimpse you gave into his darkness.

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    1. Thanks Deborah. I felt sad for him too. :-)

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    2. I felt the sadness too! But really appreciated the overall approach and the use of the pictures throughout the piece. Nice work! :o)

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  2. Very interesting interpretation, Denise. Van Gogh has always fascinated me, too. I've read Dear Theo, the autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh, which also tells a bit about his brother, Theo, a lifelong supporter of Vincent and his art. I like how you brought in the torment that Van Gogh felt with his art, and the eventual conclusion. My daughter loves Starry Night. I like a lot of his work, and his portraits. Well done.

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    1. He is a fascinating character in a time when mental illness was not recognised to the extent it is today. His relationship with Theo was crucial to helping Vincent cope with the 'voices'. When his brother planned to marry, Vincent thought he'd no longer have his support.
      I adore many of his works. :-)

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  3. Wonderful, evocative piece, Denise. Van Gogh was so tragic yet gifted. My own WEP entry will be on my blog Thursday. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed yours here. It will be in the BOO! Mode. No surprise there, right? THE STARS LIKE SKULLS is its title. :-)

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    1. Looking forward to your entry, Roland. Glad you like my Vincent story. :-)

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  4. The night is always an interesting place for the tortured or creative soul. There is comfort in the way it envelops, hides, and inspires! One of my favorite places. :)
    Beautiful journey through a creative but troubled mind! Excellent piece!

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    1. Thank you Yolanda. Night certainly suits Vincent. :-)

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  5. Wow. Beautiful. I also love van Gogh's work.

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    1. Thanks Lynda. I love, love, love his paintings. :-)

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  6. He was so right that his work would live forever, stirring hearts, souls and minds long after he was dust.
    And how I wish he had found peace.

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    1. Yes, Sue, his work certainly lives on in our hearts. No peace for him, unfortunately.

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  7. You've painted an amazing portrait with your words, Denise, blending hues of beauty, tragedy and madness into a haunting palette.

    I could really feel Van Gogh's restlessness and his pain.

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    1. I'm glad you felt it, Arpan. You can see I enjoyed writing this so much!

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  8. That was fantastic. I love how you swirl all the elements of Van Gogh that we know into a tumultuous narrative.

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  9. You sure brought in the struggle of his mind as he brought what he saw to life and mixed words like a painting itself. His work sure lives on.

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  10. I love Van Gogh and your interpretation on his madness and brilliance. You have so perfectly capted the blues of his art as well as his soul. 'Marvelous connection to constellations.

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    1. Thanks FE! I enjoyed writing this more than I can express.

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  11. Beautiful. A truly unique take on the challenge, and that last line. *sigh*

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  12. That was so poetic. You made Starry Night come to life.

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  13. Hi Denise
    In High School I did a report on Vincent Van Gogh. I often think of him and now after reading his letters it seems to me that he could have also been a poet. His was a tragic life. His brother was an art dealer who refused to sell his work. So I haven't read the book that was mentioned, but the fact he wouldn't sell Vincent's work doesn't sound like a lot of support. To be honest, it reminds me a lot of my own family. Good thing I'm stubborn.
    Nancy

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    1. He was a poet for sure. Truly talented. Theo didn't believe in Vincent's work but he tried to help him in his torment.

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  14. This is amazing! I love how you portray the creative process and Vincent's struggle. Starry Night has always been one of my favorites, and I enjoyed the way you drew inspiration from it.

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    1. Thanks LG. This will remain with me awhile.

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  15. How tragic and how poetic. Beautiful story, Denise.

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  16. Words that you use so brilliantly fail me in expressing how deeply this affected me ... drawn into his madness, into the creative process, both his and yours. You are definitely at your peak as a writer, as I've watched your progress over the past almost six years. Incredibly beautiful writing filled with poetry. So glad you're in my life, dear sis.

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    1. You can tell I loved writing this. Thanks for your praise re my writing. You know I'm working hard.

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  17. Beautiful, Denise! A big fan of Vincent van Gogh here. He was truly special and you've captured that quality evocatively. 'I'd like to sing a lullaby in colours' - I can't remember where I've come across the quote, but your piece reminded me of it. That's what he did and that's what you've done too. A poetic glimpse into a tormented and brilliant soul. Loved this interpretation of the prompt.

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    1. A lullaby in colours. Beautiful Nila.

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  18. I love this, so beautiful yet so tragic.

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  19. Hi Denise - everyone is right ... a truly inspired piece - I loved it ... especially the mixing of the colours, then the desperate need to get that right ... the despair of - little time and the desire to be gone, to remove himself from the challenges of life ...

    Brilliantly done - and I hope you get that out into some short stories - where it can shine out ... lovely ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks Hilary. I'd like to do something like this in a short story. Time...

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  20. Beautiful! Van Gogh somehow saw things differently and perhaps it was the seeing that tormented so.

    I got to go to visit his museum in Amsterdam as well. I loved being able to see the evolution of his art.

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  21. You gave us a glimpse of how tortured this genius was. I loved how you wove the story around his painting. It seems some of us have seen these masterpieces in Amsterdam. Too bad we weren't there at the same time!

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    1. Yes wouldn't that have been nice. Amsterdam has so many great museums and galleries. I could have spent much longer there.

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  22. He panted of life
    And the struggle within
    The death of his soul
    From all of his sins

    For in his paintings
    A lot of us, we see
    And like van Gogh
    Someday we’ll be free

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  23. So beautiful. I love the way you've captured this.

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  24. Aww! You've painted this piece with beautiful words and phrases. :)

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  25. Such a beautiful piece, Denise, emotional and evocative. I feel Vincent’s struggle, but also his lust to create. Like you, I’m a great admirer of his work, and Starry Night is a favorite. It’s horrifyingly tragic he wasn’t appreciated during his lifetime.

    On a tangential note, I actually started when I read the line, “I am desperate for air, but not desperate for life.”

    I had to go thumbing through my current WIP because I thought I'd written the same line. Mine reads, “I am desperate for breath but not for life.”

    Strange, yes?

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Wow that is strange VR. And why not? I'm glad you like my piece.

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  26. Wow! So beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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  27. Nice!!! You've captured that struggle to express the art we feel inside! :)

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  28. That was awesome Denise. Very well interpreted. The man is the literal definition of "angst". How he lived so long in such sorrow and confusion is amazing. I have always been drawn to his paintings, and reading his words was such a treat. Thanks for sharing this.

    So sorry I did not participate this month. Sorta forgot in all the other busy stuff - including working on two stories I hope get published in anthologies.

    Have a happy Halloween :)

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    1. Thanks Donna. Happy Halloween to you. All the best for the anthology entries.

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  29. Very nice!! Van Gogh was such an interesting artist. I love your glimpse into his inner torment. Well done :-)

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  30. The story of Van Gogh has always fascinated me immensely.

    I hope you have a good Halloween :)

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    1. Thank you Keith! I hope you have a good Halloween boo!

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