biography

herman de vries (NL, 1931), based in Eschenau, Germany, is a distinguished artist whose work intersects nature and philosophy. His diverse and evolving oeuvre is represented in numerous international collections, symbolizing his unique blend of art and natural philosophy.

The way he writes his name – herman de vries (born in Alkmaar, 1931) – says a lot about his way of working and thinking. de vries avoids the use of capital letters, as he believes that no hierarchy exists between things.

 

de vries was trained as a biologist and naturalist at the Rijkstuinbouwschool in Hoorn (1949-1951) and worked as a botanist for the Plant Disease Service in Wageningen (1952-1956). Exhibitions of his work have been shown at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam and the Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo). Works by de vries can be found in museum collections around the world, like Guggenheim Museum (New York) and Ernst Barlach Haus (Hamburg).

 

In the 1960s, de vries became involved in the Dutch Nul movement, related to the international avant-garde group ZERO, where seriality, neutrality, and repetition are key ideals. In 1975, he started focusing more on the processes and phenomena of nature. In Steigerwald, the forest around his home in Eschenau, Germany, a rotting tree stump can be studied by de vries for days, until it reaches the perfect form. This ‘sculpture’ is then added by de vries to his collection as a ready-made. de vries also contributes back: in the forest, he places blocks of sandstone, which he engraves with texts like ‘veritas existentiae’ – the truth of what exists.

 

Sequence and ordering are important principles in de vries’ oeuvre. Titles like infinity in finity, no thing, and to be all ways to be play with sound, unity, and diversity. Particularly to be all ways to be, the title under which de vries represented the Netherlands at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, hints at the idea that these six words could also be arranged in a different order.

Here, the philosophy of de vries’ practice is revealed: ordering what exists and thereby aiming to draw attention to both the unity and the diversity of what surrounds us. Hence the direct way de vries presents his work – framed found objects, ranging from pieces of glass to rabbit droppings, and from stones to different types of soil. His aim is to centralize and showcase the poetry of things in things.

 

herman de vries (NL, 1931), currently residing and working in Eschenau, Germany. Born in Alkmaar, he studied at the gardening school in Hoorn, followed by agricultural work in France and a stint at the Institute for Research in Plant Diseases, Wageningen. de vries began his artistic journey in 1953 with informal drawings and paintings, transitioning to collages, paintings, and sound work. Later on, his explorations extended to language experiments, leading to extensive travels and psychedelic experiences, and eventually shifted towards incorporating elements of chance and nature, reflecting an integration of art with nature and culture. Since the 60s, his work has been exhibited internationally in galleries, and museums. His works are in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, he represented ’to be all ways to be’ The Netherlands at the Biennale Arte 2015, Venice.

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