Homage to the Van Gogh Brothers

The artwork created by Sophia Lahlil is an installation in homage to the Van Gogh brothers, with fraternity as its subject. During a period of eighteen years, Vincent and Theo exchanged more than one thousand letters in which, day after day, they put down in writing their feelings, their work and their lives. This relationship is today well known and has been described in numerous media. However, although many artists continue to be inspired by Vincent’s paintings, only few deal with his relationship with his brother.

By its approach and its representation, this creation uses the language of the contemporary rational society. In the same way as we nowadays measure the relationships between people using networks and numbers, this artwork uses scientifically quantified elements drawn from the correspondence between Vincent and Theo. Based on the digitized letters and on studies made by the researchers of the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam, Sophia Lahlil has evaluated the total surface of paper and quantity of ink used by Vincent and Theo during their correspondence and has reconstructed the frequency of the sent messages. Through the transposition of the exchange, from language to its material quantification, the artist proposes a reflection on the immaterial link that united the two brothers.

The installation is constituted of different components: on the ground, a pile of paper and a large test tube filled with the amount of ink estimated to have been used during the correspondence; on the wall, sixteen panels list the effective or estimated dates on which each letter has been sent; and in the exhibition space, a sound composition that repeats the names Vincent and Theo interspersed by silences according to the frequency of exchange of letters and of their respective author. In this installation, the linguistic exchange is erased in favor of a physical dimension that is produced by the decomposition of the correspondence into a number of tangible and audible elements commemorating the relationship: paper, ink, dates, sound composition. The deliberate detachment and mechanicity of the proposed forms, the absence of color in favor of black and white, in turn summon an experience of duration that create a whole and highlights the density and intensity of the exchanges of the brothers’ relationship.