atomictv David Bickerstaff
Artist, filmmaker and creative director of digital media for narrative environments

Artist works

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From the
Van Gogh Museum

Cinema release from
20th May 2021

>> Play the TRAILER

Filmed and directed by David Bickerstaff
Produced by Phil Grabsky

HD video | 16:9 | 86 min

I have had the privilege to film Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting several times at the Van Gogh Museum - with intimate access and in the company of world experts. Like many others, I thought I knew this iconic painting extremely well. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It wasn’t until I was invited to film the work without its frame on that a whole new narrative revealed itself. All of the painting’s history was laid bare with some unexpected surprises and it triggered a need to know more about this series of masterworks. There are Five Sunflower paintings that can be seen by the public today, but they are separated by a great distance, across five different countries. They have never been shown together but the privilege of film making is being able to travel to locations like Tokyo, Munich, London, Amsterdam and Philadelphia to examine each version of the painting with a similar intimacy and access that we had at the Van Gogh Museum. By bringing them together on a big screen, you can closely compare and contrast each one, examining the power of the artist’s obsessive hand and his struggle with colour and composition.

It was such a joy to witness how unique each version of the Sunflowers really was, evidence of Van Gogh’s exuberance for experimentation. This cinematic journey brought the sunflowers series into sharper focus for me and revealed a new insight to the tragic circumstances that lead Vincent to fall out with Paul Gauguin, triggering the famous incident when Vincent cut off his ear in a psychotic rage. Drama, struggle and a passion for life can be seen in every dash of paint in the Sunflower paintings. In my opinion, each one shows an honesty and a virtuosity that speaks to the enduring power of an extraordinary artist, who lived an extraordinary life.

Music by Asa Bennett
Written by David Bickerstaff and Phil Grabsky
Vincent van Gogh played by Jamie de Courcey
Van Gogh’s letters voiced by Jochum ten Haaf

Jorne Tielemans, Hugh Hood, David Bickerstaff, Tom Quigley, Matthew Allard acs

Storm postproduction

Contributions by
Martin Bailey: Author of The Sunflowers are Mine
Nienke Bakker: Curator, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
René Boitelle: Senior Paintings Conservator, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Charlotte Caspers: Artist
Stephen Harris: Druce Curator of the Oxford University Herbaria, Oxford
Ella Hendriks: Professor of Conservation and Restoration, University of Amsterdam
Joachim Kaak: Curator of paintings and Sculpture 1850-1900, Neue Pinakothek, Munich
Shôko Kobayashi: Chief Curator, Sompo Museum of Art, Tokyo
Chris Riopelle: The Neil Westreich Curator of Post 1800 Paintings, National Gallery, London
Jennifer Thompson: Curator of Paintings and Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Louis van Tilborgh: Curator and Senior Researcher, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Clare Willsdon: Professor of the History of Western Art, University of Glasgow 

  Atomictv © David Bickerstaff