At Van Gogh’s virtual Arles

NEW UPDATE: The virtual Arles was rebuilt at a new sim: Torell Nederland.

UPDATE: It seems that the virtual Arles is gone (I’m having a busy time IRL right now, so I couldn’t check it myself in SL). The sim is still there, but it seems it’s someone’s private home now. Anyway, I’ll leave this post here as a document of that amazing place. May it be back some day.

“It is very beautiful here, if one only has an open and simple eye without any beams in it. But if one has that it is beautiful everywhere.”

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh has been taken to Second Life in more than one occasion. Actually, he has inspired some of the best creations SL has ever hosted – like the sim where this brilliant machinima by Robbie Dingo was filmed. Another great initiative that goes more or less in the same direction is the virtual Arles at Torell Nederland Arles, inspired on named after the city, in France, where Van Gogh lived in 1888 and 1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings.

Arles: The Langlois Bridge
Arles: The Langlois Bridge
Arles: at Vincent's door
At Vincent’s door

Arles in SL is “loosely based” on the real Arles – but also borrows some of its atmosphere from Van Gogh’s paintings. The sim reproduces 12 scenarios that have been depicted by the dutch painter. As it’s explained on the big book we find at the main landing point, virtual Virtual Arles’ creator, Mudpuddle Cleanslate (or Pete Clements), avoided to use too many textures directly inspired on the works by Van Gogh. After all, his brush strokes wouldn’t be seen in the real Arles anyway. Nonetheless, some areas, like the bedroom and the hospital, do have textures that remind people of Van Gogh’s paintings.

Arles: Vincent's Bedroom
Vincent’s Bedroom
Arles: Pine Trees With Figure In The Garden Of Saint-Paul Hospital
Pine Trees With Figure In The Garden Of Saint-Paul Hospital

It is a matter of personal taste, of course, but Vincent’s bedroom and the hospital, with its garden, are the sites I like best in the virtual Arles – and this is so exactly because they do not only give us a taste of the places that have inspired some of the most famous paintings by Van Gogh, but they also transport us to some sort of recreation of those paintings in a (virtual) three-dimensional world. And, certainly, such a feeling of recreation is highly increased by the textures that Mudpuddle has chosen to use in both sites.

Arles: Courtyard Of The Hospital
Courtyard Of The Hospital
Arles: at the hospital
At the hospital

I’d say that the brush strokes are, to a great extent, what makes Van Gogh’s works so touching. He used the strokes in an expressive way, creating a surface that you can “feel” with your eyes, that evokes different sensations – including movement, which is guided by the direction and length of his interventions on the canvas. Even if what you see in the bedroom and the hospital at virtual Arles is not the actual brush strokes by Van Gogh, it still evokes the expressiveness that characterizes his paintings.

Arles: The Yellow House
The Yellow House
Arles: Gateway To The Farm
Gateway To The Farm
Arles: Café Terrace At Night
Café Terrace At Night

Perhaps you agree with me that the use of warm or dense colors are also one of the main characteristics of Van Gogh’s work. It seems to me that even when he painted cold colors, like blue, he wouldn’t use fading tones so often. And, of course, his “preference” for yellows on his paintings is highly noted – again, dense yellow tones, not fading ones. All of that is in the virtual Arles. With the proper Windlight settings (I can’t remember which ones I tried, I’d say that you should check different ones when you visit the sim), it is possible to at least get closer to the atmosphere that emanates from Van Gogh’s paintings (if I was successful or not, it’s for the reader to judge, but it is possible). Of course, when you are visiting the Café Terrace, it is recommended that you either set your viewer’s sun position to midnight or choose a night-like Windlight setting – for the painting associated with it depicts the place during the evening.

Arles: The Night Café
The Night Café

The café at virtual Arles is, by the way, a remarkable place, too. In its interior, the scene seen in the painting known as “The Night Café” is recreated. Not only the colors are very expressive and hot there, as in Van Gogh’s original painting, but also the light coming from the lamps “behaves” as it does on the painter’s work.

Arles: the windmill
The windmill
Arles: The Old Mill
The Old Mill

Visiting Arles in SL is an impressive experience – but visitors should keep something in mind: it’s not about reproducing Van Gogh’s universe as a pastiche. The virtual Arles evokes an atmosphere and is more like a tribute to the Dutch painter – it is with that spirit that the sim should be visited.

Arles: Fishing Boats On The Beach At Saintes-Maries
Fishing Boats On The Beach At Saintes-Maries

PS: In the beginning of this post, I remarked that Van Gogh has inspired different creations in SL – and it seems to me that more than other painters. Maybe I’m wrong, but if I’m not… then why? This is a question to which I have no answer right now.

PSS: As in Robbie Dingo’s case, Mudpuddle’s efforts to take Van Gogh to SL also resulted in a machinima that registers his creation. The machinima was made by Mudpuddle/Pete Clements himself and was recently uploaded to Youtube.

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