Something very interesting was already well under way when de vries was first invited to visit Digne[-les-Bains (Haute-Provence)] with a view to creating work in the region around the town and to make an exhibition and a publication. The invitation came from the museum director, Nadine Gomez-Passamar, on behalf of CAIRN (Centre d'Art Informel de Recherche sur la Nature), a vital agency pioneering creative collaboration between the Museum [Gassendi] and the Réserve Géologique de Haute-Provence, centred on the promotion of contemporary art as a means to deepen public understanding of the natural world as a whole, and of the ecological richness of the region itself. CAIRN, under the direction of [Nadine] Gomez-Passamar, whose understanding of de vries's life-project is profoundly sympathetic was in this respect a perfect organisation within which the artist could develop a new and coherent complex of works responding to an environment that is in so many ways different from that of Eschenau. In terms of both its informing ideas and practical programme there was a close correspondence with de vries's own personal philosophy and practice, and susanne and herman have continued to work creatively with Gomez-Passamar and CAIRN.
de vries made his first visit to Digne in April 1999. He began at once to explore the mountains and valleys of the Réserve Géologique, collecting earth samples and prospecting sites for possible works. It was on this visit that he was surprised and delighted to learn of Dr Honnorat's close connection with the town and of his scientific researches in the region, for he had already encountered the philological work of the good doctor some years earlier during his first sojourn in Provence. This was when, in 1991, de vries had been a guest of the Espace de l'Art Concret at the the Château de Mouans at Mouans-Sartoux in the hills behind Cannes. Here was held his first one-man show in France, terre, vie et poésie, for which he prepared a journal, and a number of works using materials from the surrounding area.
Passage from Mel Gooding, herman de vries : chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) 111-112.
view of Digne-les-Bains [photo unknown]