How to Navigate the Legacy Blog of Henri van Bentum, 1929 - 2022
Special Edition of "Gitanjali and Beyond" devoted to Henri van Bentum's "Organiverse" mandalas and featuring a narration of the "Gitanjali" song offerings (poems) by Rabindranath Tagore
Cover of "Gitanjali and Beyond", Issue No. 7, Rabindranath Tagore, Henri van Bentum
Today the Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies published its annual eJournal, "Gitanjali & Beyond", devoted to a project marrying the 100 Organiverse mandalas by Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) with the 'Song Offerings' (Gitanjali) of Rabindranath Tagore. In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature for "Gitanjali".
The concept and production of this project was done by Henri's friend Brian W.E. Johnson, who narrates Tagore's poems.
Here is the link.
"When Natasha van Bentum first wrote to me about her husband, Henri van Bentum’s 100 Mandalas which have been structured as reflections on Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali poems, I was intrigued. I asked Natasha to send me samples of this project, and she was willing to send me the entire opus of Organiverse and Gitanjali.
The compositions, created in 1972 and using pointillism in water colour, are intricate and intense. The idea of mandalas with their Hindu and Buddhist symbolism, signify a universal search for release from suffering, reaching out towards an unutterable joy.
. . . Henri’s mandalas, with their perfect circular pattern, encompass and visualise worlds that unfold from the first blue representation of the pondering universe and go on to explore and explode in colours that come together like the rising sun, the colours of the rainbow, unfurling petals, swirling dreams, bursting stars, crystallising shapes which are infinite in their possibilities and suggestiveness, till the final ones that speak of life’s fulfilment reflected in the image of the rising sun, meditative and expectant in its promise of life’s continuity.
. . . Henri’s positive approach to life in spite of the many obstacles he encountered, his courage and success are apparent in these mandalas which defeat the idea of chaos with their cosmic energy that is both transformative and transporting. They represent life itself in its many manifestations and speak directly to the viewer with an appeal that is mesmerising. There is something sacred about their affirmation and celebration of life, a sense of inclusion that is compelling."
Video featuring excerpts from a few speakers at the Memorial Gathering for Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) held in August 2022
Dear readers - here is the link to a 30 minute video (on YouTube) with some of the speakers at the Memorial Gathering held for Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) on August 13, 2022. See list of timings, below.
Here are the timings:
Min. 0:00 - 03:13 - Introduction by Grace van den Brink - the first-ever woman President of the Union Club of British Columbia, and a fellow Snooker player.
Min. 03:14 - 13:00 - Seonaigh MacPherson, a long-time friend who is also a professor at a university in BC. Several years ago, Seonaigh helped with the launch of a school for Tibetan refugee nuns, in northern India.
Min. 13:01 - 16.35 - Photos and mini clip from a documentary film on Henri, Banff, 1983
Min. 16:35 - 19.35 - Marcus Hissen, Victoria Symphony musician and friend.
Min. 19:25 - 23:07 - Henri's friend, Brian W. E. Johnson, and fellow Snooker player.
Min. 23:08 - 29:14 - Natasha van Bentum, Henri's lifelong partner of fifty-one years.
Min. 29:14 to end - includes clips from the documentary made about Henri in 1983, when he lived in Banff --- excerpts from him speaking at his exhibition of "Spatial Rhythms" watercolours at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
Remembering Henri van Bentum - thoughts from Dr. Kimberly Arcand
Remembering Henri van Bentum
“Art and science are two flowers on the same cosmic vine. They are about curiosity, creativity. They question, provoke. They are thinkers, instigators. They can communicate, make meaning. Art and science, those gorgeous flowers, help us manage and understand the world around us.
As an artist and color master, Henri van Bentum captured light and life, creating something beautiful, a choreography of color and texture. As a visualization scientist for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, I translate the energetic multiwavelength Universe into something we can experience. We make visible the invisible.
Henri and his artwork first came to my attention during the United Nations’ International Year of Astronomy in 2009. His major opus, "Organiverse", became part of my "From Earth to the Universe" cornerstone project, with celebrations by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Victoria Centre.
More than that, I had found a friend in him, and Natasha, and we would continue to correspond, sharing parts of our lives, beyond the art, beyond the science. In Henri’s hands, the Universe danced.
Remembering Henri van Bentum, words from Dr. Mark Sherman (Henri's family doctor), given at the memorial gathering on August 13th, 2022
Good afternoon, everyone. I met Henri and Natasha not long after they moved to Victoria in 2004. One of the "Raging Grannies" Natasha knew had recommended me as a physician. They soon became my patients.
Henri was an easy person to respect, and to connect with, and we quickly recognized our shared affinity for Buddhism and our love of travel and the creative spirit.
It wasn't long before Henri had invited my then fiancée and I, for tea and a visit at their small 7th floor apartment overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait.
It was here that I first experienced Henri's opus, the "Organiverse Portfolio" that Henri had created while living in Morocco, and which he completed on the island of Madeira, 50 years ago in 1972:
-100 small mandalas, all painted in pointillism, "dot by dot", "atom by atom", as Henri would say. Each painting has a diameter of only 8.5 centimetres.
Shown here are just 8 of the 92 mandalas of "Organiverse" by Henri van Bentum, created in 1972 while living in Morocco, and completed on the island of Madeira.
(I only learned later it was a special privilege to have held the original Portfolio in my hands, since it was normally kept locked in a metal cabinet for safekeeping.)
As someone who is deeply interested in the natural world, as well as human consciousness, I found the Organiverse portfolio fascinating and powerful.
Each painting evoked for me infinite representations of lifeforms representing Nature on both the macro and micro level.
I understood these were visionary works, since Henri had never studied biology nor astronomy. The work arose from a deep place of wisdom, connection and knowing within.
Here is something I wrote afterwards:
While I miss my patient and friend, Henri, I am as well comforted by how much of him still persists in his paintings and writings; in his friendships and connections; and in his gentle affection that touched me, and so many others.
You're invited to view "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page featuring several existing, and legacy van Bentum projects.
Remembering Henri van Bentum: words from the August 13th memorial gathering, by Grace Van den Brink - Past President, The Union Club of B.C.
First of all, I would like to offer my continued condolences to Natasha, to family and Henri's wide, wide circle of friends, fellow artists and thinkers as we gather on his birthdate of August 13.
Henri was a talented man and he lived such a long and interesting life. Few of us will ever achieve some of all he accomplished.
In his obituary Henri was described as "valiant, steadfast, compassionate". I would like to add the word: Gentleman. No matter what, he never failed, at the very least, to give a wave or a nod or share a few words when our paths crossed in the Club. His and Natasha's support during my presidency here at the Club was always welcome and I felt he was my talisman whenever I would see him.
I first met Henri in the Billiards Room when I started to learn how to play snooker. I must say that his stance and shooting style, appeared to my uninitiated eyes, to be somewhat unusual. And yet, he played the game and played it well with enthusiasm, good humour and sportsmanship.
In 2015, Henri played in the spring snooker tournament here at the Club. As you can imagine, there is a bit of a tale behind his win.
For many weeks before the tournament, Henri and Natasha were cat-sitting in Arizona for P.J. Heyliger, one of Henri’s former students and illustrator of his children’s books. Surprisingly, there was not a billiards table to be found within 50 miles – something that Henri and Natasha missed as they would play 4 to 5 times a week here at the Club.
They flew home on January 16 and the tournament was scheduled for the next day. Now, Natasha said they were flabbergasted when Henri won. Not only had he not practised in almost six weeks, but he was getting over a long day of travelling and was on his feet for seven hours – all this while 85 years young.
Henri van Bentum with trophy
Henri’s impact went beyond the Billiards Room. Shortly after becoming a member in 2005, his “From Landscape to Innerscape” retrospective exhibition covering 45 years was featured at the Club, and the Club appreciated his donating his children’s books a few years later.
Henri, you are missed and yet your spirit, creativity, teachings live on as does your love for Natasha. Thank you.
Grace Van den Brink, Past President, The Union Club of British Columbia
You are invited to visit "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page
featuring several existing, and legacy projects.
Remembering Henri van Bentum - message from Raymond Doucette, former Vancouver neighbour
Here is a message from our friend and former neighbour back in the days when we lived in Vancouver. Raymond is a humble but intrepid traveller and wanderer. Henri and Raymond had a regular correspondence from afar. Henri and I were always fascinated by Raymond's accounts of his travels, in particular the lengthy time he spent in Lalibela, Ethiopia, where he assisted in the creation and funding of a job-creating Lodge for local people. Natasha
"My solitary bachelor life ended in 1996, after the new neighbours, Henri and Natasha van Bentum, moved in across the hall.
They explained they were just house-sitting for six months – actually, they described it as “fish-sitting” -- since one of their main tasks was to look after a huge aquarium that occupied about one fifth of the living room space.
They were a bohemian, friendly pair. The six month fish-sitting assignment ended up lasting five years, since the owners decided not to return (they'd moved to northern BC, and rented the apartment to the van Bentum’s).
Before long, the three of us visited each other regularly, with Henri and Natasha always inviting me to their place for supper; it was larger than my bachelor studio.
Their place was full of Guatemalan, Indonesian and Indian textiles, plus of course Henri’s paintings, and artefacts from their global wanderings.
I discovered Henri’s cooking was just one of his talents. And which I avidly anticipated.
Before meeting the van Bentum's, I’d never heard a single sea-going yarn. Nor knew anyone like Henri. Or his repartée. And I was soon hooked, intent on experiencing his lively European humour.
And his earnest, and vivid accounts of their travels, adventures, and fascinating sojourns.
The three of us had similar travel bents – appreciating above all, out of the way, unspoilt places. Which was possible in those days.
My memories are also of Henri's profound discipline, his careful, and steadfast fastidiousness --- yet free. As was his art, his integrity.
I came over to Victoria in August 2020 for his 90th birthday and brought him a portable solar light from Ethiopia. He was thrilled and showed everyone, saying “Imagine, the light gathered here comes all the way from Lalibela!”
Henri took me under his wing. And as an equal. For which I am totally grateful.
I have appreciated the support, and attention he generously provided. And particularly for a time when I most needed it. I've wished I had let him know.
Postscript: For those who don’t know it, Henri’s blog is an endless source of fascination. It’s still there on the Internet, and will remain as part of his legacy.
You are invited to visit "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page
featuring several existing, and legacy projects.