Friday, 2 November 2012

Needed: a wide space

I've been in a wide space this half term, in more ways than one. Tall grey skies; autumn leaves; dramatic  cloudscapes. A stay in Holland brings you close to the calm of water. Modernist houses, composed of interlocking cuboids, are softened and reflected downwards. Even without the vistas through vast glass windows, you could almost tell the weather by looking into the water below. Clean straight lines speak of egalitarian, ordered Dutch life; the press of water held back by dykes a constant reminder that nature is a force less easily controlled.

Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam (left of picture)
If holidays are about more than the absence of work, they have to be about that restoration of life and energy that expand the spirit. Thanks to the Van Gogh exhibition, temporarily rehoused at The Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam, I remembered how beauty, design and colour are part of that expansion. Each room in the museum was painted in a Van Gogh type colour to offset his paintings to the maximum effect. Outside - tall, brown and grey rain spattered houses leaning over canal boats. Inside - moss, bottle green, turquoise and charcoal painted rooms and all the joy of swirly skies, rushing cornfields and urgent Van Gogh landscapes.

The lingering colour of the trip was grey. It rained a fair deal. But I'm a great fan of grey. There can be a lot going on in grey. 

Brick grey lit up by a splash of sinking evening sun.

The cool high grey of a cumulonimbus sky, viewed from a boat as the blue is just breaking through. 

Or grey and brown setting each other off on an elegant  Amsterdam waterway. 

Colour, texture, design, beauty. The natural world was fuel for Van Gogh's vision. His inner world sadly proved just too grey, in the worst sense of the word. But with a break from the usual landscape and thanks also to sympathetic friends, I discovered the inner spirit had time to expand and embrace life; life in a wider space. 

'He took me out into a wide place; he was my saviour because he had delight in me' (Psalm 18:19, Bible in Basic English).

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