Amid the undergrowth, a sort of serpent emerges from a tree stump. It slithers between the surrounding trees before completing its journey by plunging back down into the ground with one last bound. Its journey recalls the path of a tree, which comes from the earth and returns to the earth.
Bob Verschueren creates his installations by gathering, harvesting, sorting and laying out botanical and stone elements he collects from the surrounding area.
He works exclusively with plant material, and creates site-specific installations that take into account the history and architecture of the location. The fragile and perishable nature of the materials he uses require him always to be in constant negotiation with nature. “It is the properties of the materials that generate the final form in a somewhat risky experimental process, as the plant material sometimes demands major modifications to the initial ideas.”
Nature, his inexhaustible source of inspiration, allows him to work according to a method that suits him: “I need a certain amount of uncertainty, an opportunity to be surprised. Working with natural elements excludes the risk of mastering everything and getting bored.”
He work is therefore based on the ephemeral, because he is primarily interested in the metamorphosis and degradation of plant life. His works are therefore fragile and designed only to last for the duration of an exhibition before disappearing. This characteristic is a constant in his work and interests viewers because it reminds them to look carefully so they can remember it: “The sweep of a broom / a gust of wind. / Everything disappears / forever / but lives on in our memories.” This is how he explains the link between his works, time and mortality.
As his work becomes nothing more than a trace in our memories, Bob Verschueren does not give them specific titles. He is content simply to group his works together according to the various ways he observes nature.
The creator of many plant-based installations, Bob Verschueren uses natural elements as a means of expression. Using material from the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire, he will transform trees and branches into spectacular sculptures, evoking both splendour and decay.
“My installations do not contain messages. Rather they express my questions about the antithetical relationships between life and death, creation and destruction, the place of humanity in nature, and the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. The also try to change our view of waste materials and to make us think about the problems they cause.
Each installation has a metaphorical, rather than a symbolic value. I don’t want to encapsulate my installations in unambiguous required readings. I’d rather keep them open for everyone to read with their own feelings, according to their own experience. I try to ensure that my installations are considered as a real event. When an installation resonates with the place that hosts it, this becomes obvious, establishing a tension between the timelessness of the offering and its ephemeral nature.
For me, the ephemeral nature of a work influences the way people look at it. In my view every visitor to an exhibition is in control of their own memories. A photograph of an installation is not the purpose of the work, it is part of the memory it leaves behind.
In most cases, the materials used are some type of waste material. The transition from the status of ‘nature’ to ‘rubbish’ is one of the focus points of my train of thought.
I see all my work as a sort of beginners’ course, where nature gives me real lessons in philosophy, lessons in life.” Bob Verschueren