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Letters to Theo: van Gogh behind the strokes

An interactive art exhibit opened in Manila featuring some of Vincent van Gogh’s finest works like “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “The Bedroom.” Hence, here are some highlights in the life of the ‘man who cut his ear off’ coupled with excerpts from his life-long correspondence with his brother, Theo. 

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Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. Photos from THE MET website and Wikimedia Commons.

Vincent van Gogh is coming to Manila. Well, sort of. 

An interactive art exhibit opened last October 26 featuring some of his finest works like “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “The Bedroom.” Although his works will not be physically present, the exhibit aims to impart visitors an experience that would immerse them in his artistic world. Hence, here are some highlights in the life of the ‘man who cut his ear off’ coupled with excerpts from his life-long correspondence with his brother, Theo. 

1. He was the eldest, but not the first. 

The name ‘Vincent’ was initially given by his parents to his brother, who died at stillbirth, a year before he was born. It was also common name in the Van Gogh family. In fact, he shares the same name with his grandfather and great-uncle. Before his death, his brother named his son after him which added another Vincent van Gogh to the family. 

Self-portrait of Vincent. In his lifetime, he has created over 200 self-portraits of himself. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

2. He began working at the young age of 16. 

Although Vincent received relatively good marks in school, somehow, it didn’t really work out for him. In 1869, his uncle Cent, short for Vincent, got him a job as a trainer at the art dealer Goupil & Cie branch at the Hague. His early letters from England spoke about his success, enthusiasm, and appreciation of English culture. His time as a clerk fostered his interest in the works of celebrated artists like Scheffer, Millet, Delaroche, and Hébert, to name a few. 

“Things are going well for me here, I have a wonderful home and it’s a great pleasure for me to observe London and the English way of life and the English themselves, and I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?”

Johanna, Theo’s wife, then referred to this time as ‘the best year of Vincent’s life.’ 

Jo van Gogh-Bonger in 1889. Wife of Theo van Gogh, she translated most of the letters of the van Gogh brothers and contributed much in Vincent’s fame. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

3. He originally wanted to become a pastor. 

Vincent was born to a religious family. His father, Theodorus van Gogh, was a protestant minister. In his early life, he began teaching in a Methodist boys’ school. In a letter he wrote from Amsterdam, he expressed his dream of becoming a minister:

As far as I’m concerned, I must become a good minister, who has something to say that is good and can be useful in the world.”

In most of his early letters to Theo, he spoke greatly about his faith in God. The ‘random’ thoughts he penned during his time in Amsterdam were laced with references to sermons of other pastors and teachings from the Bible. It was also during this time that Vincent was studying for an entrance exam to the School of Theology in the University of Amsterdam. He was, however, denied entrance as he refused to take the Latin exams, referring to it as a “dead language.” In his pursuit of his purpose, his devotion to preach didn’t stop there. 

In 1879, he moved in with the impoverished community of coal miners in Borinage, Belgium. To further understand their lifestyle, he immersed himself in the coal miners’ day-to-day struggle:

We went down together, 700 meters deep this time, and went into the most hidden corners of that underworld.”  

Throughout his time preaching to the poor and the sick in Borinage, he lived a simple life by giving up his belongings to a homeless person and sleeping in a small hut—a practice that eventually earned him the epithet, “Christ of the Coal Mine.”

van-gogh-peasants

“Two Peasants Digging” after Jean-Francois Millet (1889). Photo from The Washington Post.

4. He loved books as much as he loved art. 

Vincent didn’t only have an eye for art in canvas, but also in text. Instead of succumbing to homesickness, he turned to studying and reading books. His extensive reading list included works by Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, Jules Michelet, Émile Zola, and many more. In one of his letters, he expressed:

“If now you can forgive a man for going more deeply into paintings, admit also that the love of books is as holy as that of Rembrandt, and I even think that the two complement each other.”

5. His career as an artist didn’t start until he was 27.

From time to time, Vincent drew sketches in his letters to Theo. But it was only at the age of 27 (or 28, in some sources) that he first picked up his brush through his brother’s advice. He initially took up painting lessons from artist Anton Mauve and practiced ‘fanatically’. His efforts would then give birth to what would we be known as his first masterpiece, “The Potato Eaters” in 1885.  

Rather than painting from memory like fellow artist, Paul Gaugin, he preferred to paint things as how they were in front of him. Along with artists such as Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Pollock, he was also known for using an impasto (“thick paint”) technique that showed the texture of strokes in almost all of his paintings. 

After the eventful night of Gaugin leaving and Vincent allegedly cutting his ear off, he began to exhibit signs of intense confusion, hallucinations, and self-harm. Tormented by his neighbors as a madman, he admitted himself in an asylum in Saint-Rémy in 1889. He continued to suffer from attacks that lasted a week and some as long as two months. In between his lucid phases, he still managed to find subtle light of optimism in his art. As he wrote in his letter from Saint-Rémy:

“What am I on the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – someone who has and will have no position in society, in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”

In his time at the asylum, he made over 150 paintings in the span of a year which included copies of Millet’s work, landscapes, and his iconic works like “Irises”. It was in the dawn of June 1889 that he painted the famous “The Starry Night” from the view of his window in his room. In spite of his relapses, he found solace in creating his art:

“It is true that I am often in the greatest misery, but still there is within me a calm, pure harmony and music. In the poorest huts, in the dirtiest corner, I see drawings and pictures. And with irresistible force my mind is drawn towards these things.”

Despite having his art exhibited multiple times, he struggled to make a living out of it. In his lifetime, he was only able to sell only one artwork in his lifetime: “The Red Vineyard at Arles” (1888), which was priced at 400 Francs (around P100,000 in today’s value). Nonetheless, he still continued to pursue his passion. 

“The Red Vineyard at Arles” (1888). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

6. Oriental art inspired some of his works. 

For many years, Japanese art was kept out from Westerners. It was only in 1859 that overseas trade paved way for Japanese art to be recognized by the European public and Vincent himself. As he moved in with Theo in early 1886, his collection grew from a stack of Japanese woodcuts to what he would describe as ‘hundreds of prints’ in his letters. As a matter of fact, in a portrait he painted of Montmartre art dealer, Père Tanguy, Japanese prints—probably from his own collection—were used as a background. 

It was clear that Vincent had high regard for Japanese art during this time, even seeing them as equals with masterpieces of Western artists. In one of his letters from Arles, he stated: 

“Japanese art is something like the primitives, like the Greeks, like our old Dutchmen, Rembrandt, Potter, Hals, Vermeer, Ostade, Ruisdael. It doesn’t end” 

This inspiration would later on transcend in his works as it began to become more modern and stylized. He started to paint using bright and bold colors with a more flat-like appearance by excluding all the shadows (“The Bedroom,” 1888). Learning more from Japanese prints, he coupled his distinct paint strokes with spatial effects by cutting out the horizon (“Kingfisher,” 1887) and by working from a bird’s point of view (“Les Alyscamps,” 1888). In this time of his life, he was convinced that ‘seeing with a Japanese eye’ would help him uncover his personality.

“The Bedroom” (1888). Photo from Van Gogh Museum website.

 

“Les Alyscamps” (1888). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

7. Theo was more than his brother. He was his confidante. 

By this time, you may realize that Vincent was more than just a passionate artist. He was also an insightful writer who spent a great amount of his time penning detailed narratives of his experiences, unorthodox philosophies, profound thoughts, and psychological turmoil in his correspondence with Theo. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote more than 650 letters to his brother. It was a practice he kept up until his last days. 

Some would say that Theo was a catalyst in Vincent’s pursuit of the arts. Their relationship was more than just the financial ties, he held onto Theo for emotional support. In a letter he wrote to from the Hague in 1883, he referred to his brother as his only friend. 

“Sunflowers” fourth version (1888). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“I don’t really have any friends except for you, and when I’m ill you’re always in my thoughts”. 

Vincent’s mental illness, however, didn’t go away. He grew anxious about the future, feared another relapse might happen, and generally felt like a failure. On the 27th of July 1890, Vincent walked into a wheat field in Auvers and shot himself in the chest with a pistol. The bullet didn’t kill him instantly so he staggered back to his room in the Auberge Ravoux. After hearing about the news, Theo travelled to Auvers where he was present until his last breath.

It was a little over 6 months after his death that the brothers would once again reunite. Today, they rest side by side in a cemetery in Auvers after Johanna had Theo reburied there in 1940. 

“The Starry Night” (1889). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

While most of Vincent’s notable works were bursting with colors of orange and yellow, his life was drowned in hues of blue and gray. Unfortunately, he lived in a time where little help was available for his illness. Though he was gone too soon, his works managed to live long enough to inspire a new generation of artists, filmmakers, and writers. With a handshake, he wrote: 

“Painters being dead and buried speak to a following generation or to several following generations through their works.” 

In the 8 years that Vincent painted, he created more than 850 paintings—most of which now reside in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam—and 1,300 works on paper. One doesn’t need to be an artist or an art critic to appreciate his works, but rather an eye that can look at things for what they are on canvas: emotions put into action. 

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Fighting Back, One ‘OK, Boomer’ at a Time

Just like the statement “men are trash,” the phrase “OK, boomer” is attacking a system rather than an individual. It challenges the mindset of the boomers that refuses to embrace change; ones who still cling to discriminatory remarks and outdated ideologies.

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It started as a TikTok meme. Then, a New Zealand lawmaker used it to address a rude comment in parliament.

The youth has often been the subject of judgment because of their tendency to be politically-correct and woke, especially from elders who view them as “overly-sensitive snowflakes.” 

What’s the youth’s response? “Ok, boomer.”

Recently, the phrase “OK, boomer” has been circulating around the internet, and has become the rallying cry of the youth against the older folks and the system they perpetuated over the years. 

The said phrase mocks baby boomers; the generation born between 1946 and 1964. The generation got its name from the huge increase in birth rate after World War II, and is considered as a prosperous time.

The popular use of the phrase circulates in TikTok where it is used to mock elders and their prejudices towards the youth. 

It became more popular when media outlets highlighted the term after Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old lawmaker from New Zealand was discussing the Zero Carbon Bill, which aims to cut the carbon emissions of New Zealand. In the video, a heckler commented about her age, in which she went off-script to retort “OK, Boomer.”

Netizens also used the phrase to call out the Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin Jr. after cursing out a journalist on Twitter.

“OK, boomer,” later on became a perfect response to the generation on being problematic. An old, rich man complaining about millennials destroying everything? OK, boomer. An aunt of yours mocking your liberal arts degree, commenting on how easy it is? OK, boomer. Some random professor accusing you of being a “dilawan” and red-tagging you because of your Facebook posts? OK, boomer.

However, critics are crying foul over this phrase, with complaints mostly coming from older people. Some even compared the phrase to a racial slur, saying that it promotes ageism and discrimination. Critics think that it’s a below-the-belt attack against the boomers, a foul remark akin to bullying and racism. Well, sorry to say but it’s not.

To set the record straight, the boomers also fought for peace, racial equality and women’s empowerment at their time. What “OK, Boomer” addresses is not the people itself but their outdated way of thinking that is harming our society. 

Just like the statement “men are trash,” the phrase “OK, boomer” is attacking a system rather than an individual. It challenges the mindset of the boomers that refuses to embrace change; ones who still cling to discriminatory remarks and outdated ideologies. It wants boomers to  acknowledge that they have collectively done actions that contributed to societal issues such as climate change and worsening economy. It attempts to shake the narrative, making an older generation acknowledge the voice of the youth, making them act because they have the power and experience to do so.

This meme-worthy clapback is not just a collective sigh towards the problematic views of the old or a funny catchphrase hurled towards killjoy boomers—it is a statement, a call for action, a protest against problematic beliefs and actions.

It is a warning to the older that the kids aren’t alright and they are fighting back, one “OK, Boomer” at a time.

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Films to watch in Cinema One Originals 2019

Returning to cinemas and theaters on its 15th year, Cinema One Originals has launched its roster of films ranging from the genres of thriller, romance, and more! The film festival showcases various stories that will surely make the viewers’ minds wonder what lies beyond the trailers.

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Photo from Cinama One Originals Facebook page

Over the past decade, Cinema One Originals has given rise to a number of films that marked the hearts and minds of the Filipino. Through the artistry and expertise of Filipino filmmakers in cinematography and production, it has already showcased great films which became hit to the public like Imburnal (2008) by Sherad Anthony Sanchez, Violator (2014) by Eduardo Dayao, That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) by Antoinette Jadaone and Paki (2016) by Gian Carlo Abraham. These films have been lauded for its excellence, exception plots, and its appeal to viewers alike. 

Returning to cinemas and theaters on its 15th year, Cinema One Originals has launched its roster of films ranging from the genres of thriller, romance, and more! The film festival showcases various stories that will surely make the viewers’ minds wonder what lies beyond the trailers. So, Hurry up! Gather your friends now and buy your popcorn as Cinema One Originals proudly presents the following films for this year’s festival!

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo by Denise O’Hara

Photo from Cinama One Originals Facebook page

Relevant to the relationship which the generation engages today, Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo portrays the relationship of two individuals who share sensual experiences and romantic gestures with each other. However, both of the characters in the film do not share the same sentiment when it comes to commitment. In the end, they both part ways in the realization that such intimacy cannot just be shared with just anyone.

Yours Truly, Shirley by Nigel Santos

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

 

After hearing a song by popstar Jhameson, Shirley is convinced that the popstar is a reincarnation of her late husband, Ronaldo. In the film, Shirley is seen to invest time and effort as she obsessively admires the popstar in the event of coping up with the pains and struggles of losing her beloved husband. 

Metamorphosis by J.E. Tiglao

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

Metamorphosis reveals not a lot but says so much in its trailer. As it depicts the metamorphosis of a butterfly, there is a teenager in the background showing its life on a daily basis. It tackles the life of an individual born with male and female genitals.  

Utopia by Dustin Celestino

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

Set in the dingy and dark parts of the city, Utopia depicts the meeting of a rookie police officer, vlogger, and an undercover agent as they try to uncover the delivery of dangerous and illegal substances. Utopia is about crime, thrill, wit and reality all in a perfect sandwich ready to keep you at the edge of your seat. 

O by Kevin Dayrit

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

Pleasant in the forms of the soft sweet piano songs, sleek sofas and white linens, O talks about the story of a beguiled morgue intern Maria who is forced by the vampire Matilda to be a blood pusher and sell blood to other vampires. Twisted and unconventional, Maria is driven to do vile actions to accumulate blood in exchange for knowledge about the creatures roaming in the dark. 

Tia Madre by Eve Baswel

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

Tia Madre takes in the form of a middle-aged woman who ardently loves her daughter. However, Emilia, the mother of a 10-year old girl, is a harboring alcoholic who abhors to be called a mother. Her daughter tries to compensate with her mother in the hopes that things will turn back to normal, as it should be.

Lucid by Natts Jadaone, Victor Villanueva, and Dan Villegas

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

Ann Cruz is a typical individual who leads a monotonous life. She works a nine to five job, goes home, and the cycle repeats. However, when she sleeps, she is not just the Ann Cruz in her waking life. At night, she is a lucid dreamer who goes on dates and engages in scenarios that favours her. She later on meets a man who challenges her to dream more than she does.

Sila-Sila by Gian Carlo Abraham

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

Sila-Sila is a coming-of-age film that tells a story of a 30-year old man who attempts to reconnect with his past friends and ex lovers in a class reunion. 

The screening of the eight films will run from November 7-17, 2019. Indeed, November is another exciting month for cineastes out there!

Photo from Cinema One Originals Facebook page

For the full list of screening schedules and further details, visit the Cinema One Originals Facebook page or their website regarding the event.

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Binge-watch worthy movies and TV shows this break!

If you are reading this, congratulations for surviving the past few months filled with academic workload to fulfill and conquer! To reward yourself, here’s a list of movies and TV shows that you can watch this school break.

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If you are reading this, congratulations for surviving the past few months filled with academic workload to fulfill and conquer! To reward yourself, here’s a list of movies and TV shows that you can watch this school break.

1. Skins | 40-50 minutes per episode

Photo from Amazon UK.

Genre: Teen-drama, Comedy

Creator: Bryan Elsley, Jamie Brittain

Synopsis: The British teen drama-comedy centers on the tense lives of a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England as they go through the their last two years in secondary school.

Review: Skins is a nice coming-of-age series tackling different challenges teenagers face, from sex and gender fluidity issues, to drug use and mental illnesses. The series, with its seven seasons, will surely send your time down the drain if you choose to do so.

2. Money Heist | 40 minutes – 1 hour per episode

Photo from IMDb.

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Telenovela

Director/Producer: Álex Pina

Synopsis: The “Professor” executes a grand heist that makes a first in history as he targets the Royal Mint of Spain alongside eight criminals.

Review: The story progresses slowly but surely as it shows how the characters grow on each episode. The story is intelligently well-written and delivers unpredictable to make the viewers on the edge of their seats! 

3. The Twilight Saga | 607 Minutes (Combination of all 5 movies)

Photo from IMDb.

 

 

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Director: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Chris Weitz (New Moon), David Slade (Eclipse), and Bill Condon (Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2)

Synopsis: Based on the series written by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight focuses on the relationship amongst the three main characters: Bella Swan, whose life changes drastically upon meeting Edward Cullen, who is a vampire, and Jacob Black, who is a werewolf.

Review: With Halloween coming around the corner, Twilight is the perfect film to binge-watch and relive major fangirling and fanboying feels. With themes revolving around love, vampires, and werewolves, are you #TeamEdward, or #TeamJacob?

4. The Hunger Games: Trilogy | 548 Minutes (Combination of all 4 films)

Photo from IMDb.

 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance

Director: Gary Ross (The Hunger Games), Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire – Mockingjay Part 2)

Synopsis: Based on the series written by Suzanne Collins, the trilogy centers around the life of Katniss Everdeen as she volunteers for her sister, Prim, for the Games. As she continuously challenges the system that cease to exist in each district, Everdeen realizes that there is so much worse games to play.

Review: The films faithfully adapted the dystopian trilogy, never failing to allow its viewers to feel emotions as it depicts Katniss’s journey as the “Girl on Fire” and her quest as a tribute. With its outstanding cinematography and action-packed sequences, Hunger Games will definitely let you experience how it feels to be in the games.

5. Vagabond | 1 hour per episode

Photo from IMDb.

 

 

Genre: Action, Thriller, Romance

Director: Yoo In Shik

Synopsis: After a mysterious plane crash that killed more than 200 civilians, Cha Dal-geun, together with covert operative, Go Hae-ri, initiates to find answers to uncover the truth behind the plane crash.

Review: The action-thrilled Korean series delivers suspenseful scenes and narratives that would make you stay at the edge of your seat.

6. Bojack Horseman | 25 minutes per episode

Photo from IMDb.

Genre: Animated Sitcom, Black Comedy, Satire

Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Synopsis: The animated series focuses with Bojack, a well known actor who once starred in a popular 90s sitcom, who is struggling to make a comeback due to his growing self-deprecation and his exposure to the materialistic world.

Review: Despite the dark humor and the reference to vices and worldly desires present in each episode, the animated series will make you reflect and sympathize with Bojack and his experiences.

7. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba | 23 minutes per episode

Photo from IMDb.

 

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Director: Haruo Sotozaki

Synopsis: When Tanjiro Kamado’s family was attacked by demons, Tanjiro embarks on a journey as he becomes a demon slayer in order to help his sister, Nezuko, who turned into a demon, become human again. 

Review: This animated series applauds Tanjiro and Nezuko for their determination to prevent the same tragedy to happen. With its top-tier animation and storyline, Demon Slayer has plenty of scenes to offer for its viewers especially on what is bound to happen between the siblings.

8. Kaguya-Sama: Love is War | 23 minutes per episode

Photo from IMDb.

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Director: Mamoru Hatakeyama

Synopsis: Both afraid to initiate who will confess first due to their pride and status, Student Council President Miyuki Shirogane and Student Council Vice President Kaguya Shinomiya, strategize on how they will make their move so that one concedes and confesses their feelings.

Review: The story build-up is slow, however, it allows the viewers to fully know the quirks and the real personality behind their icy and intimidating figures.

9. Terrace House | 40 minutes per episode

Photo from IMDb.

Genre: Reality

Producer: ‎Masato Maeda

Synopsis: Six strangers live under the same roof in order to get to know each other.

Review: Terrace House takes unscripted reality shows to a different level as it makes the audience enjoy and relax on their seats as they get to know their real stories and conflicts.

10. The Good Place | 22 minutes per episode

Photo from IMDb.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

Created by: Michael Schur

Synopsis: Eleanor Shellstop tries to change for the better as she realizes that she is sent to “the Good Place” by mistake.

Review: Aside from the good laughs shared by watching this series, The Good Place makes you reflect on your actions through its philosophical themes about the afterlife.

 

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