Sjoerd Buisman, Souvenirs from the old land (2000)
The trees that grow on the polder’s new land are still young and developing. Full-grown trees such as willows and poplars with their thin trunks are the pioneering trees of the new land. You won’t see any thick, old oak trees and beeches here. Inspired by this fact, Sjoerd Buisman placed bronze casts of monumental tree stumps from the old land – scattered between the young, planted trees – at the Meerveld in Almere Haven.
Buisman found the stumps of which he made casts in the age-old Haarlemmerhout near Haarlem, where it is standard policy to leave the old trees be. The stumps that are overgrown with moss and fungi show the process of growth and decay in nature. Surrounded by the young trees in the polder, these ancient bronze stumps make the fact and implications/meaning of the “new land” visible.
Starting with his first experiments as an artist, Buisman has focused on growth processes in nature. At first he made exclusive use of natural, and often living, materials for his works. He was interested in the way in which plants grow under varying conditions, and extreme ones in particular. Thus, he tied knots in thin tree branches to see how the branch thickened with knot and all; he constricted pumpkins with leather belts, so that they grew in strange shapes; and he planted willows upside down. With his growth experiments, he took an almost scientific approach to nature.
The exhibition Square Pegs in Round Holes (1969) at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which he visited in those days, made a great impression on the young artist and gave him a feeling of recognition. This influential exhibition formed the introduction of Land Art and Arte Povera in the Netherlands and the artworks were made almost exclusively from unconventional materials. Works were shown by artists such as Mario Merz, Giovanni Anselmo and Richard Long, who used nature as theme and material – as did Buisman.
To be able to show more of the growth and its various stages, Buisman also began to document his experiments. Between 1971 and 1976 he made Plastische gebeurtenissen in de natuur (Plastic events in nature), a series of multi-media works in which he recorded the growth process of plants through photo series and text. The title of this series could apply as a characterisation of his entire oeuvre. Although his approach seems to be scientific, as an artist and sculptor he still primarily works with shapes and images.
Since the 1980s, Buisman makes increasingly less use of (perishable) natural materials for his works and more and more applies “cultural” materials such as bronze (and concrete). Primarily, this is not because of the durability of the works but springs from his interest in sculpture and shape. By casting his constricted pumpkins in bronze, for instance, the focus is shifted somewhat from concept to form. The interaction/tension between nature and culture remains essential in his works and his themes have kept the same as well. Although the material itself isn’t as variable and perishable as in his earlier works, the stumps at Meerveld also point to natural processes in time. The stumps are a prediction of the developments that this new land will undergo.
Read the personal story of art ambassador Martina Meesters about this artwork of Sjoerd Buisman.
Sjoerd Buisman, 1948, Gorinchem, the Netherlands
Souvenirs van het Oude Land (Souvenirs from the Old Land), 2000
bronze, 6 parts
Meerveld, Almere Haven
De Collectie Almere / Museum De Paviljoens
commissioned by VOF Meerveld, on the occasion of the construction of the new neighbourhood offered to the inhabitants / Municipality of Almere