land and land in art, interviews about the sculptor's views
on land art
land art - land mark
an interview with Topos
Is there a difference in approach
between a landscape architect and an artist who
designs an environment en plein air?
An architect, as far as I know, designs places for
people to use, mainly to occupy and secondly as
a visual experience. Functionality is the main goal.
For the artist, on the other hand, it is all about
feeling and sensation, evocation, or even purely
visual. The actual possibility of entering the space
he creates is not necessarily a requirement; to
the contrary, the artist can control the accessibility
It is all about the function of a landscaped environment.
Land art is the ultimate landscape design as far
as it is not made to be used. Its function is purely
visual and intellectual, only design. This gives
the artist more freedom because the landscape designer
has his directives: such as a playing area for children,
public lighting or parking space.
The difference between public art and land art
Whenever we encounter art along our highways, we
see more or less conventional site specific, public
art: enlarged sculptures or even paintings, which
have been elongated to match the length of the road.
This is not an optimal use of this new opportunity
for art to extend its frontiers.
In 1983, I was one of the sculptors asked by the
National Road and Transport Department of Holland
to do a study on art and the highway. Highway A15
was the object of study. Instead of working out
an incident or long-drawn-out artworks alongside
the road, I found that comparing it to a score in
music would be the only appropriate thing to do.
The moving observer would witness the events when
they happened. I submitted various suggestions,
using materials and natural elements from the surroundings,
as to how this could be done on a scale which matches
that of a highway in a landscape. Nevertheless,
the committee chose for the conventional sculptural
Towards making land art
I never set out to change my environment into art;
it would have frightened me to know beforehand that
this might ever happen. Sculpture itself was a large
enough area for me. At that time, I was not too
concerned about the difference between Land art,
environmental art and landscape design. The way
I see it now is that land art is a subdivision of
environmental art, which can be done in a natural,
as well as in an urban setting. Landscape design
does not have to be art, although there are examples
where the result justifies this classification.
As far as my work is concerned, I became aware,
coming back from America, that in the Dutch landscape
I would have to take a different approach when practicing
Landscape design. As the landscape clearly bears
the mark of man's ordering hand, more than in a
’natural’ situation, where an object of art would
immediately be obvious.
I would have to relate my work to other designed
forms and they would have to be extremely forceful
in character if it were to gain the same evocation
as in a natural setting. I came to the conclusion
that this could be achieved through greater analysis
A project that shows this well is the bridge over
the Dirksland Canal.
The bridge is constructed of elementary forms perpendicular
to each other. An orthogonal formation of concrete
planes forms the bridge in such a way that it detaches
itself from the landscape and becomes an entity;
a landmark rather than a conventional bridge. The
color emphasized the separate planes. I also planted
parallel rows of Italian poplars at a sharp angle
to the road that crosses the bridge, creating an
interesting time and space effect for passing motorists.
Setting up rows of trees parallel to the highway,
in comparison, would only have accentuated its invasion
of the countryside. As it is now, it is the bridge,
which is to stand out and provide the landscape
with an enriching element.
My work is geometrically abstract, and it is clear
that mathematics and a conceptual approach play
an important role in it. I study delineation of
form, from the inside outwards: transdimensionally.
x-ing - land art for
Geometrical construction is for me a way of showing
something is man-made, which I believe, is a primary
characteristic of art. Some of my projects have
a conceptual aspect - for instance Pieter Janszoon
Saenredam Project, or Merging Grids, homage to Cor
Noltée. Together with this post-impressionists,
who died more than twenty years ago, I used to paint
in the wetlands called the Biesbos.
An example of a project in which you can see this
principle back is my Biesbos Project. In 1991, I
initiated and participated in a symposium in this
area. In an existing osier bed, I planted four-meter
long willow rods in a stringent system of squares.
The title of this work refers to the incongruity
between my contribution and the original arrangement
of the randomly planted original willows. I accentuated
my grid by peeling the bark off the tops of the
newly planted branches leaving about half the length.
Below the peeled part new branches grew. Eventually
the geometrically perfect grid will merge with the
random one, and the result will be almost invisible.
Land art is not a movement and it does not necessarily
have to be found in the landscape. Neither is land
art a thing of the present; any past man-made change
of the environment can have the same right to this
title as those works that were intended to be land
Lucien den Arend www.denarend.com
Biography Author (1)
The artistic development of Lucien den Arend, a
Dutch sculptor and artist who takes the landscape
into remarkable consideration in his environmental
projects, began with painting from nature or even
perhaps with the shelters he made himself of flexible
willow rods as a child. On turning to sculpture
in the sixties, he not only made objects out of
bronze, steel and other classical materials but
also began to incorporate elements that he found
in his immediate surroundings in his work, leading
on to a development towards his present day projects
in the landscape.
The years that den Arend spent in the USA as a child
and student helped him gain a distanced approach
to The Netherlands, his native country, and enabled
him to recognize the particular character and potential
of its landscape and traditions. Since five years
he lives in Finland now. The presence of nature
all around him opens endless opportunities for art
in the landscape.
Unlike town and open space planners, den Arend does
not seek to create interesting or beneficial effects
with the natural elements he uses; rather his main
concern is with evoking the unexpected, and thus
he gives hills, shrub plantings, reservoirs and
canals the form of curves, semicircles, squares,
lines and grids an exercise in practical geometry.
Pieter Janszoon Saenredam Project in the town of
Barendrecht is as transitional in character
as the Dutch osier cultivation itself, where the
pollard willows are replaced when they fall apart
once they get old
Some of his projects seem to have been inspired
by constructive principles and it is no coincidence
that one of his most spectacular objects, semicircular
earthwork is named Homage to El Lissitzky. Moreover,
a bridge that den Arend erected over stands like
a constructivist composition in the landscape, as
was indeed his intention.
(1) Extract from Topos
European Landscape Magazine, number 3H1993, 'Lucien
den Arend: Landscape as Project' Ursula Poblotzki