Natura Humana: Outdoor Installations

Though Bob Verschueren’s work may not be so familiar to American audiences, he has created outdoor installations across Canada and all over Europe for more than 30 years. Natura Humana, which was published on the occasion of his recent installations at the Centre d’arts et de nature (France) and Le Festival des 5 saisons (Belgium), offers the perfect introduction to this nature artist. The publication is short at 95 pages, but it is well-illustrated (documenting more than 30 installations) and features essays by John K. Grande (a contributing editor for Sculpture) and Vinciane Despret, a philosopher and psychologist.

After starting as a painter, Verschueren transitioned to sculpture with his “Wind Paintings” of the 1970s. Grande discusses a number of these works, noting that “the ‘Wind Paintings’ involved ‘painting the landscape’ of a flat and empty windswept place with crushed charcoal, iron oxide, chalk, terra verte, flour, yellow ochre, terre de Cassel, burnt, and natural umber…The variously colored pigments and materials distributed over the land usually only lasted a few hours, as nature theatre broadened the scope and scale of the effect.” From these “paintings,” Verschueren has continued to create (mostly) ephemeral sculpture out of natural materials. In a well-written essay, Despret examines Verschueren’s materials and process: “First, there was the wind,” a foundational fact that weaves through a discussion of dissemination, experimentation, and creation.

Natura Humana primarily serves as a reference book for Verschueren’s outdoor sculpture. Each photograph is accompanied by a description of the project written by the artist. Verschueren twists and arranges branches and vines into evocative shapes that belie their hardened materials. He is very clearly committed to working “in the land,” whether his installations appear outdoors or not. Though he seems primarily concerned with the forms that he can create from organic materials, some of his works, such as The Rising Waters, have a clearer message about present-day environmental concerns. Kept afloat by lifebuoys, 16 small plants drift in an expanse of water—survivors left after a deluge.

For those interested in the connection between art and nature, Verschueren is an artist to investigate. This small-scale picture book offers a welcome introduction to his work, especially for American readers who have not had the chance to experience his outdoor installations in person.

Beth Wilson

Book Information:
Natura Humana: Outdoor Installations
by Bob Verschueren
Warve: Editions Mardaga/Façons de voir, 2010
95 pages €35.00
ISBN: 978-2-8047-0057-7
French Edition: Amazon, English Edition: Mardaga

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