herman de vries: to be all

November 19, 2015


Photo: herman de vries standing at the Kilianseiche near Falsbrun, Steigerwald (2006) [photo susanne de vries, Eschenau]

For herman de vries, human existence is rooted not in thought but in consciousness; this consciousness is primarily sensorial. Natural phenomena and processes first of all evoke the meanings of their physical presence; as an extension of that, the works and installations of herman de vries possess an immanent poetry that can be experienced directly…each natural element is itself and nothing else. (herman de vries, Visitor’s Guide, Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015).


Photo: herman de vries at the Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale by Judith Jockel

The Dutch artist herman de vries (b. 1931) does not differentiate between nature, art and existence. His exhibition at the Venice Biennale entitled, to be all ways to be, studies properties of nature as a way to comprehend consciousness and knowledge.

His collection of natural elements interspersed with debris acts as a commentary on the juxtaposition of ecologial and cultural habitats. The artworks are an encounter with nature as a force that transforms everything. de vries collects distinct categories of nature (i.e. soil and plant collections) in order to enlarge their energetic significance upon human life. His ethos is to enhance each person’s sense of reality through sharpening their perception.

Everything is all ways significant for all. (herman de vries, quotation in herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding, 2006)

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Photos: IMAGE CREDIT http://www.hermandevries.org, herman de vries at the Kunsthalle Schweinfurt arranging the ‘steigerwald cosmology’ (2010)
photo Katharina Winterhalter/Main Post

herman de vries interrogates his surroundings by researching a particular land area. His philosophy of being with the immediate and the actual, incorporates the belief that nothing is stable, with every moment becoming a new manifestation of reality (herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding). Through walking, observing, collecting and presenting his discoveries, he invites each one of us to become more intimately involved with our habitat. Each walk becomes a journal and an immediate experience of being, an inclusivity of everything and the significance of ‘all’. The body intertwining with its environment absorbing the complexity and pulse of natural phenomena.

The world is my chance, it changes me everyday. (herman de vries, quotation in herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding, 2006)


Photo: herman de vries Journals http://www.hermandevries.org
IMAGE CREDIT im winter auf dem grossen knetzberg • ein journal, 2013 [Photo Bruno Schneyer, Zeil am Main]

The methods and reasoning put forth by herman de vries are an invaluable resource for art therapists interested in resourcing the natural world for art, field trips, and metaphorical discussion. His dedication to astute observation, the ordering of findings, and attending to the details of human nature are about working with every day discoveries. Each walk is a quest for enhanced concentration upon existence in all its complexity. A journey’s documentation becomes a journal of perception in contact with greater essences of life.

A personal journal is a record, but it is by its very nature subjective and partial…It’s purpose is to record a process or a progress in time, in a particular place or on a particular journey, and to use the events as the basis for reflection and speculation…It is worth noting that the Latin diurnalis (daily) is the root both of ‘journal’ and of ‘journey’ (originally the distance travelled in a day): ‘journal’ thus encapsulates the idea of movement through time and space. de vries has made several journals, usually in the course of a journey or a visit to a specific place or area, each of them having in common the ordered bringing together of a series of framed ‘entries’ of material gathered in the period of the journey or stay.

The heterogeneity of the materials reflects always the diversity both of the artist’s experience and of the landscape in which they have been gathered. They may include plant forms, animal traces, mineral objects, and human artefacts: leaves, twigs, seeds, stems pieces of bark, lichen, fungus, shells, feathers, stones, earth and ash rubbings, fragments of ‘rubbish’, text works, photographs. They demonstrate, by implication, unity in diversity by means of the visual order of their presentation in grid-like arrays. Each ‘entry’ may seem to be a fragment of reality: put together they present an image that implies both a thrilling chaos and a beautiful order in things. The visual ordering accords with the underlying principle that in every part of complex reality there is both the natural disposition to form and order and the impulse to entropy. (Quotation by Mel Gooding, herman de vries, chance and change, 2006).

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Photo: Burned III, After a Summer Bonfire, de vries, Dutch Pavillion, Venice Biennale



herman de vries: chance and change (2006) by Mel Gooding