herman de vries


The non-assertive presence of being within the landscape is something de vries continues to celebrate in works commissioned by CAIRN in the country around Digne. His most recent ones - traces - are interventions of the most tactful kind, consisting of small texts and signs, "engraved in gold in rocks and stones, indicating a philosophy that is related to the natural process but so modest that you can easily overlook them: they should have no impact on the landscape and nature that is of such great beauty that art can easily be a disturbance. Further, there have been places in the region that have been sacred forests in ancient times, places of a human relationship that i think worth indicating and recalling." The inscription of these subtle and inobtrusive texts and signs, most of which have recurred over the years in de vries's statements and writings, in the journals and in many of the publications of the eschenau summer press and temporary travelling press, is thus an act of homage at once to nature and to the culture of human interaction with the natural world over the millenia.

Recently de vries has created traces of the same kind in the woods and quarries around Eschenau, thus making an invisible bond between the spirit of his home landscape and that of the other landscape of his heart, in Haute Provence. In the sacred woods, and the ruins, rocks and quarries in either place, the observant walker may chance upon ambulo ergo sum, or the Sanskrit saying that adorns the capping of the circular sanctuarium at Münster. On rock faces in both the Steigerwald and the Réserve Géologique de vries has placed the mysterious gnomic Latin inscription discovered at various locations across the Roman empire, including Herculaneum and Pompeii, and sometimes referred to as the satorquadrat. It can be read left to right, right to left, top to bottom and bottom to top and may be interpreted to mean (by the implication of its palindromic form) 'what goes round comes round'. de vries's own reading is 'the sower (or originator)/no work/keeps/the work/going round', working from his assumption that the cryptic 'arepo' is merely 'opera' rendered backwards and thus signifies 'no-work' - analogous to the Tao principle of wu-wei (non-action) or the the Zen mushin (no thought).

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bibliographic references

herman de vries, 'einige persönliche notizen über kunst & philosophie', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries : all this here / [Redaktion Barbara Strieder] (Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland : Bedburg Hau 2009) 58-64; translated in French and edited by Anne Moeglin-Delcrois in 'quelques notes personelles sur l'art et la philiosophie', in Revue d'Esthétique n° 44 'Les artistes contemporains et la philosophie' (2003) 144-151.

herman de vries, 'les traces', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries (Fage Éditions : Lyon / Musée Gassendi : Digne-les-Bains 2009) [80].

Nadine Gomez, 'herman de vries et Digne, archives', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries (Fage Éditions : Lyon / Musée Gassendi : Digne-les-Bains 2009) 190-209.

André Scala, 'Traces', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries (Fage Éditions : Lyon / Musée Gassendi : Digne-les-Bains 2009) 112-118.

Passage from Mel Gooding, herman de vries : chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) 135-138. © Mel Gooding; courtesy Mel Gooding.