A Vincent van Gogh now adorns my wall

I have just bought a beautiful Vincent van Gogh oil on canvas painting. It’s a stunning scene of swirling clouds dancing in a blue sky above undulating golden fields. Immediately recognisable as being in the style of van Gogh, it carries his familiar signature: Vincent.

The highest price ever paid at auction for a van Gogh painting was US$82 million (£53.6m) in 1990, so I reckon I’ve got a bargain. Mine cost £140.

What’s more, I saw van Gogh produce the 70cm x 50cm painting with my own eyes and videoed the event.  It took him just 11 minutes.

Now, before you point out that van Gogh has been dead for 120 years, let me explain the phenomenon in greater detail.

Although Vincent apparently produced the painting, he wasn’t visible to me or the 50 or so people who had gathered in a public hall in Petworth, West Sussex, to witness the event.  Instead, he used the tall, well-built body of Florencio Anton, a 37-year-old Brazilian medium who was making a brief visit to the United Kingdom – his first – in order to raise funds for a school which his Scheilla Spiritist Group, a Brazilian-government approved charity, runs in Mussurunga to help needy children and poor families (click here for a YouTube video).

Guiding Florencio’s latex-gloved hands with impressive dexterity, much of van Gogh’s artistry was achieved by spreading paint around the canvas with his palms, then using a thumb or finger to build certain features, before adding finer details with brushes and finally signing the artwork.

When the result was held up to view, the audience applauded enthusiastically.

Two assistants on each side of him were needed at times to hold the canvases steady as his fast moving hands almost massaged the scenes to life with rapid movements after squeezing paint from an array of tubes on either side of the work area.

My colleague Danny Lee bought another of van Gogh’s works – a colourful flower display – and there were a further nine canvases that were up for sale at the end of the two-and-a-half hour demonstration (see panel at foot of this report).

The dead artists who apparently produced these included Renoir, Picasso, Modigliano and Miró.

Florencio says he became aware of spirit people at the age of eight and began developing his mediumship at the age of 11, producing spirit voices and automatic writing and first. Then dead artists began working through him and he has been giving public demonstrations for the past 20 years during which time he has produced over 5,000 paintings by over 100 artists. Each is said to be unique: he has never produced the same image more than once.

And yet, when he is not in a “hypnogogic state” – his term for trance – and being controlled by famous dead artists, Florencio insists that he cannot paint or draw well. He earns his living, instead, by teaching and working as a regression therapist. He is also studying to be a nurse.

Florencio gave his demonstration at Leconfield Hall, Petworth, on 30 April and followed this the next night with another presentation at Balham Spiritualist Church in South London. These meetings were organised by West Sussex medium and healer Christine Parkin in conjunction with Danish Spiritists with whom he has enjoyed a five-year association. Christine tells me he produced a further eight paintings by various artists at Balham. Before arriving in England he had been demonstrating daily in Denmark so, in total, he produced 100 works of art during one week in Europe. In Brazil, he demonstrates this form of mediumship just once a month.

So, how do we explain this impressive phenomenon? It seems to me there are three alternatives.

Sceptics will argue that he is a very talented man who is simply pretending  – consciously or subconsciously – to be controlled by the spirits of dead artists. There have been many accomplished artists, of course, who have fooled experts by producing paintings that appeared to be by famous old masters. Here, however, there is no attempt to pass off the pictures as originals: the methods used appear to be very different. What is also astonishing is the speed with which they are produced.

Another possibility is that Florencio’s higher consciousness has absorbed enough information about the work of famous artists to be able to produce paintings in their style. If this is the explanation, there would be no deception on Florencio’s part; he would simply be misinterpreting what happens to him in a trance and attributing it to outside forces, which brings us to the third possibility.

Could it be that Florencio Anton is actually possessed by spirits of famous artists who produce new paintings in the same style they used when alive? I asked him why, if that is so, they continue to paint pictures of Earth-like scenes. He told me that his understanding is that these scenes are not of our existence but of a plane of existence in the next world
that is close to Earth and similar in appearance.

That explanation doesn’t satisfy me, unless the discarnate people living in that realm of existence continue to dress as they did at the time of the artists’ earthly existence. But in some respects that’s a minor criticism.

I’m totally open to the possibility that Florencio Anton’s hands are being guided by dead artists, but without more convincing proof I must also keep an open mind as far as alternative explanations are concerned. And I’d be pleased to hear visitors’ views about what other
alternatives may need to be considered.

That said, there’s no denying that I am also extremely impressed with the speed of execution of these works of art, the variety of styles in which they are produced and the quality of the paintings.

And, best of all, I’m delighted to be the owner of a “new” Vincent van Gogh masterpiece and to know that the price I paid will be put to good use among poor families in Brazil. For that reason, I hope the Florencio Anton will continue to demonstrate his remarkable talent for many years to come.

Florencio's paintings on 30 April 2010

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