It’s a little known fact about the celebrated 19th century Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, that for a short while he lived in 87 Hackford Road, an end of terrace Georgian house on the border of Brixton and Stockwell. After becoming almost derelict, the house was bought in 2012 and over seven years was painstakingly and lovingly restored by the current owners. It is now a centre for contemporary art.
The house and its history, including the famous tenant, are the starting point and inspiration for a fascinating collaboration between artists, Brian Griffiths and Frank Kent. Commissioned specifically for the Van Gogh House, ’Life and its most trivial particulars’ is a series of photographic installations across all of its eight rooms which bring together the house itself and elements from the life and work of Van Gogh – as imagined by the artists – to create compelling images of mystery, humour and beauty.
Each room has just one piece, which immediately suggests and represents a space within a space within the house where Van Gogh lived. Each piece has a signature open cube which serves to frame and contain a series of objects – some crowded with lots of detail and others relatively sparse.
But we are not being invited simply to look at an image or snapshot. Rather we are being invited to take a journey through space and time. A journey which begins and is anchored in the fabric of the house, but which encourages the viewer to make their own way, using various objects, references and fragments of history as signposts and resting spots. But nothing is obvious here. These are very subtle works which can both illuminate and confuse; offer calm reflection and provoke uncertainty.
The compositions often refer to Van Gogh’s life and works, but with a sideways and usually humorous look. They also reflect the sculptural background of both artists in their carefully constructed multi-dimensional stages where objects, planes and perspective interact in complex ways.
There is a playful sense of order in the exhibition as one ascends from the earth to the roof of the house. Equally playful I suspect is the preponderance of heritage colours.
There may be just eight works. But there is plenty to capture and retain your interest. Each one deserves and repays attention. While it may be tempting to try simply to decode each piece, I found it much more rewarding to wander slowly, look around, take in the detail, and enjoy the journey.
‘Life and its most trivial particulars’ runs from 4 September to 18 December 2021 in Van Gogh House, 87 Hackford Road, SW9 0RE.
Open Wednesday to Sunday 12noon – 6pm.
Tickets are £5.00, £3.00 concessions, free for under 16s.
For further information go to www.vangoghhouse.co.uk
Go and see it if you can