2022/04/15

In Loving Memory, Henri van Bentum, August 13, 1929 - April 2, 2022



Henri van Bentum, Artist
August 13, 1929 - April 2, 2022

“The brightness that leaps from his canvasses 
is like crystals seen through a microscope.” TIME

Artist and colour master Henri van Bentum, 92, of Victoria, BC, passed away tranquilly in the company of his beloved lifelong partner, Natasha van Bentum, on April 2, 2022.

Henri was born on August 13, 1929 in the Netherlands. The son of diamond-facetter Hendricus Johannes van Bentum and Antonia Alberse, Henri began painting after WWII in a sanatorium during a long bout with tuberculosis. Later the doctors said ‘taking up painting saved his life’.

Cured, he immigrated to Canada in 1957, where two years later in early spring he travelled by train to the Rocky Mountains to paint, a trip sponsored by friend and doctor Wilf S. Goodman.

While painting ‘en plein air’ at Moraine Lake, two faculty members of the Banff School of Fine Arts came upon him unexpectedly. When they saw what was on his easel, Henri was invited to attend the school’s summer session (which he didn’t know existed). Having no money, they waived the usual fees.

Ironically it was in the Rocky Mountains that Henri discovered he was a born abstract painter, and left representational art behind, never turning back. In Toronto he studied with J.W.G. (“Jock”) Macdonald, his respected mentor. Two one-man exhibitions at Roberts Gallery followed.

Henri’s work is represented in over 200 public and private collections. He had solo exhibitions in Paris, New York, Banff, Mexico City, Toronto and Montreal. The Paris exhibition was officially opened by then-Ambassador to France, Jules L├ęger.

Henri freely shared his love of art, especially colour, with others, teaching classes with new Canadian immigrants and lecturing widely throughout Ontario.

Henri was a pioneer, as well, of the Artists in the Schools program in Ontario.

All this was done despite a facial disfigurement caused by a failed mastoid operation in his boyhood during WWII in the Netherlands, in which he also lost hearing in his right ear.

Soon after arriving in Canada, a plastic surgeon performed a pioneering, 8-hour operation that restored some symmetry to his face, but sadly this was undone when the original (mastoid) condition recurred in the late 1980’s and another operation was required.

But Henri, a born raconteur, was steadfast. He persevered with sharing and giving teachings despite this disability.

In 1972 while living with Natasha in Morocco and on the island of Madeira, Henri created his opus, the “Organiverse Portfolio” – a series of 100 mandalas in pointillism, each 8.5 cm in diameter. Dot by dot, “atom by atom”.

Later, back in the Rocky Mountains 1980-85 where Natasha worked at The Banff Centre, Henri embarked on a new series in watercolour, “Spatial Rhythms” and gave a solo exhibition at the Peter Whyte Gallery.

Meanwhile the ‘Organiverse Portfolio’, took on a life of its own. In 1975 it had been made into a 35mm film and represented Canada at several international film festivals. In 2005 a limited-edition portfolio of the Organiverse was followed in 2007 by a handheld set, with each mandala on an individual card, contained in a box made from recovered west coast wood.

Henri was actively creative until the very end. Recently Organiverse took on yet another form, a digital video production of the 100 mandalas joined with poems by Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali”, produced and narrated by friend Brian W.E. Johnson.

van Bentum’s work evokes organic processes of the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, reminding viewers “what lies above, so below”. This led NASA’s public outreach program of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to launch an online exhibit, “Coloring Space”.

The exhibit juxtaposed images of space with a selection of Henri’s paintings. Friend and astronaut Chris Hadfield called the project “a lovely fusion of science and art”. While Chris was Commander of the International Space Station, he took along a memory stick containing all 100 mandalas.

Henri was a prolific writer and correspondent with friends around the world. Following a diagnosis of bladder cancer in 2015, Henri wrote five children’s stories, all illustrated by Arizona friend P.J. Heyliger.

He was an intrepid world traveller, having been to all seven continents. These travels were undertaken on a shoestring budget. Henri’s mode of travel ranged from foot, bicycle, donkey, camel, jeep, bus, train, freighter and passenger ship to dingy, dug-out canoe, dive boat, sailboat, to Piper Cub and helicopter.

Henri circumnavigated the globe three times in the company of his partner of 51 years, Natasha, and was a proud member of the Circumnavigators Club. He was also a snooker aficionado, a passion he continued to practice into his 90s at the Union Club, with its heritage Billiards Room, winning a trophy six years ago.

Throughout his rich and varied life, Henri continued to share and give widely. He embodied the motto of his hometown Amsterdam: “Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate” (Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig).



2022/04/05

2022/02/06

Tips on How to Navigate the Blog


Greetings.  This blog contains several hundred posts covering a wide array of topics.  The most recent ones are below.  For a chronological menu of older posts, see the lower left-hand side of this page.
Henri aboard 60' sloop, en route from Ibiza to Pireaus
(For the account about this fateful 1961 voyage, see the post of August 26, 2008)



2022/02/05

And now we launch Part Two: "Organiverse / "Fruit Gathering"

 


(To go direct to all ten videos, visit YouTube and search for "BWEJ Poetry Frames". Also see below.)

Today, Feb. 5th, we are happy to announce the official launch of Part Two, explorations with the poetry (songs) of Rabindranath Tagore, and Organiverse. 

This time, it is the “Starry Night” or Bioluminescent edition of my “Organiverse” 100 mandalas, with Tagore’s book of poems “Fruit Gathering” (1916). 


Mandala 25 of 100 set, Organiverse 'Starry Night' edition. See Chapter (Video) 3.


Part Two is produced and read by our friend Brian WE Johnson (BWEJ) of Victoria. We would like to express appreciation for his diligent and thoughtful work. 

“Fruit Gathering is a collection of short poems by Rabindranath Tagore. The theme of this book is based on the relationship between God and man, the atom and the cosmos. Tagore uses fruits and flowers to symbolise his spiritual and moral values towards the love for the creator.”  (Indian Culture) 


For details about “Organiverse”, please visit our Jan. 1st post on Part One, Organiverse / Gitanjali.


LINKS TO ALL TEN CHAPTERS (VIDEOS) OF ORGANIVERSE / FRUIT GATHERING:

Chapter 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5lJGOGs0oM


Chapter 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7V3fsNo_yY&t=7s


Chapter 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dDCXAYfpXA&t=2s


Chapter 4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRqTTzeG-3U&t=798s


Chapter 5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzVAk-RsdRw&t=5s


Chapter 6

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s27YQxk4Dhk&t=3s


Chapter 7

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAfx7PT6OE&t=4s


Chapter 8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mb1ObC4s5s0&t=2s


Chapter 9

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7I-rRWz6rw&t=2s


Chapter 10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdtPR0Ckggk&t=3s




2022/01/01

Launch of "A JOURNEY INTO THE ORGANIVERSE WITH TAGORE", 1st January 2022 - marking the 50th anniversary of "Organiverse". Produced and narrated by BWEJ.

"Having built a nice fire in our woodstove, I sat comfortably watching and listening to Chapter One. The slow pace is just right and the narrator's voice lets the poetry speak without sentimentality or piety. To see each of your mandalas in this context is very enhancing - seeing it in relation to the verse, and speculating on further meanings."

Screen capture of Chapter One 


[For direct access to the chapters, go to You Tube
and search for "BWEJ Poetry Frames"]

To mark the 50th anniversary of "Organiverse", today we are happy to announce the launch of "A Journey Into the Organiverse With Tagore", a series of ten sequential video and audio chapters embracing one hundred mandalas and one hundred poems in total.  (The links to all ten chapters can be found at the end of this post.) 

Each chapter features 10 mandalas from my “Organiverse” series of pointillist paintings created in 1972, and 10 poems by Rabindranath Tagore from his work “Gitanjali” (Song Offerings).  In 1913, Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for "Gitanjali".  

I would like to thank our friend, who goes by his initials BWEJ, for his idea of pairing the two and for his diligent work on producing the videos ("digital poetry frames") which he also narrates. 
Rabindranath Tagore

Gitanjali - Song 35


Henri van Bentum, 1972

Words from the Artist about Organiverse

    While we are occupied with our daily existence, a great mystery takes place: Life, evolving in every form, from micro to the macro cosmos. Organiverse shares insights into this enigma called life, embracing art, science and ecology a timeless universalism of growth, evolution or genesis --- we have the microscope and telescope within, and an unknown destiny.

    This work also embraces the interplay and relationship of colour. It is further a study in organic development. The invisible is made visible, through dots. All life has a beginning, be it the birth of a star, a cell, a whale, lichen, an oak tree, a mouse, and elephant or human being. All comes out of darkness the womb, the cosmic egg. Beyond darkness and ignorance there awaits Light and awakening.


Background: In the spring 1972, I began creating a set of 100 mandalas (paintings) and named the set “The Organiverse Portfolio”. 

Organiverse is a meditation aid or 21st century kasina practice. (Kasinas are visual aids traditionally used in Buddhist practice.)  The initial ten mandalas were done in Morocco, in the former Phoenician fishing village of Essaouira (Mogador), now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Essaouira,  Morocco - where "Organiverse" began

But that summer of 1972, powerful winds were blowing off the Sahara.  Sand found itself everywhere in my makeshift studio, located in the medina of the town. This was frustrating. One day out of the blue, I recalled a song from my childhood in the Lowlands: “Sunny Madeira, land of luscious green and flowers”, and I turned to my partner Natasha and said, “Let’s head to Madeira!”

So we set our compass in the direction of Madeira, a volcanic island located 800 nautical miles off the coast of Africa. This is where I completed the remaining 90 mandalas.

All 100 mandalas are done in pointillism, dot by dot, atom by atom. The original portfolio consists of twenty-five pages, each with four spherical paintings 8.5 cm in diameter.



This small cottage is a former cow shed located on the estate of Quinta Santo Antonio in Funchal, Madeira, where Organiverse was completed in 1972. (On the mountainous terrain of Madeira, cows used to be kept in sheds to prevent them tumbling down the slopes.)

The concept and production of this 50th anniversary project has been made possible by our friend BWEJ. He has been a steadfast supporter and patron of “Organiverse” for more than a decade. 

Tips on viewing "A Journey Through The Organiverse With Tagore":  

Slow is beautiful and good for healing.  This journey is an unhurried and peaceful visual and audio experience. Each chapter takes around 15-20 minutes to view. Ideally the chapters should be seen in sequence (chapters 1-10).

"Organiverse is a glimpse into the multilayered beauty of all that is life. These mandalas offer an opportunity for healing and for a heart-based understanding of who we are physically, emotionally and spiritually -- a dance of colour, form and contemplation."  (Dr. Mark Sherman, MDCM, CCFP)

• The poems (songs) of "Gitanjali" embody the essence of Tagore’s poetic spirit and devotion, conveying a deep connection to Nature. In 1913, Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for Gitanjali.

"Combined together, this fusion of Henri van Bentum’s artwork and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore takes the viewer on a new journey of healing and insight."  Natasha van Bentum


Here are the links to all ten chapters:


Chapter One - Mandalas 1-10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckxRnxhtQaI

 

Chapter Two - Mandalas 11-20

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5EpkpTQSCU

 

Chapter Three - Mandalas 21-30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeArLi8yrs0

 

Chapter Four - Mandalas 31-40

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P9iz9raEk4

 

Chapter Five - Mandalas 41-50

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf2PCiQfjuI

 

Chapter Six - Mandalas 51-60

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9w7yz7CnTuI

 

Chapter Seven - Mandalas 61-70

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTy_WI1xNVA

 

Chapter Eight - Mandalas 71-80

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzG-R_8Er2g

 

Chapter Nine  - Mandalas 81-90

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqjFARKExOw

 

Chapter Ten - Mandalas 91-100

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgtiQqeEgPw

With appreciation also to my partner Natasha van Bentum, 

who has been with me on the Organiverse journey since its inception fifty years ago.





2021/09/05

"GUARDIANS OF THE ORGANIVERSE"


Soon To Celebrate Its 50th Anniversary, in 2022

Art, Meditation, Ecology
100 Mandalas “Organiverse”
Atom by Atom - Dot by Dot

Organiverse is a glimpse into the multilayered beauty of all that is Life”. Dr. Mark Sherman

Organiverse reminds us of organic processes on the cosmic and microcosmic levels. It helps me understand the vastness, complexity and beauty of the cosmos.” Professor Leslie Mezei (Ret.)


In the summer of 1972, I created a portfolio of 100 paintings, “Organiverse”. The initial dozen were done in Morocco, in the former Phoenician fishing village of Essaouira. Organiverse is a meditational aid or 21st century kasina practice.

That summer, the winds were blowing off the Sahara and sand found itself everywhere in my makeshift ‘studio’. This was frustrating. One day out of the blue, I recalled a song from my childhood in the Lowlands: “Sunny Madeira, land of green and flowers”, and said to Natasha, “Let’s head to Madeira”.


Circled in red, the estate of “Quinta Santo Antonio", island of Madeira


This is the former cow shed on  the Quinta estate, converted into a cottage, where Organiverse was completed in 1972. (On the mountainous terrain of Madeira, cows used to be kept in sheds to prevent them tumbling down the slopes.)


Original Organiverse mandalas #001-#004 of the #100 set, in its Portfolio of twenty-five
pages - (4 mandalas per page x 25 = 100 total paintings)

All 100 mandalas are done in pointillism, dot by dot, atom by atom. The original portfolio consists of twenty-five pages, each with four spherical paintings 8.5 cm in diameter. My intention in creating the work was for it to be used as a meditation device.

Henri van Bentum around the time Organiverse was created


Small is Beautiful The original Organiverse mandalas are just 8.5 cm in diameter. Ever since the 1950’s I’ve been mindful about the environment, unnecessary consumption and waste. I’ve always advocated ‘Small is Beautiful’ and work on a small scale, using a minimum of resources for maximum results.




Here is what I wrote about Organiverse back in 1972:

While we are occupied with our daily existence, a great mystery takes place: Life, evolving in every form, from micro to the macro cosmos. 

With this project, we share insights into the enigma called life, embracing art, science and ecology – a timeless universalism of growth, evolution or genesis. 

We have the microscope and telescope within, and an unknown destiny.

This work also embraces the interplay and relationship of Colour. It is further a study in organic development. 

The invisible is made visible, through dots. 

 We are biologically no more nor less than dots --- atoms. The planets and even the Sun are only a spot in space, depending from where you look.

All life has a beginning, be it the birth of plankton, a whale, lichen, an oak tree, a mouse, and elephant or human being. 

All comes out of darkness the womb, the cosmic egg. Beyond darkness and ignorance there awaits Light.


My partner Natasha has been an active part of the Organiverse journey from day one

Organiverse has seen many manifestations:

In 1973 and 1974, the work was made into a 35mm colour and sound short film by filmmaker Julius Kohanyi, who studied with Stanley Kubrick. Kohanyi was commissioned for this project by the Ontario Arts Council. Since that time, the film has represented Canada in major international film festivals around the world.

Poster for the 7 min. short film "H-A" based on Organiverse. 
The film's creator was Julius Kohanyi, who studied with Stanley Kubrick.



When it came time to give the completed film a title, Kohanyi wanted to use only the symbol for Hydrogen: the two circles at the top left corner of this picture: (if If it looks familiar, this is from the plaque installed aboard Pioneer 11 spacecraft in 1973).

However, he was told a symbol alone wouldn’t “work” for cataloguing the film, so Julius had to give it a name, and he chose “H-A” (for Hydrogen Atom, the first building block of the universe.)

Back to the original intention

My intention all along was to have the Organiverse portfolio of twenty-five pages reproduced in a limited edition and made available to libraries, art schools, universities, museums and a few private collectors.

Although pleased with the film’s success, my purpose had not been realized. The contemplative nature of work was lost on the huge 35mm theatre screens.

Over the years, we tried to have the Organiverse Portfolio printed. However an accurate rendering of the colour was impossible owing to the pointillist technique. Even the best printing companies were unable to make a realistic reproduction.

Scanning Technology Enables Reproduction

In early 2002, Natasha approached the CEO of Hewlett Packard Canada with a challenge: can their scanning equipment reproduce the “Organiverse” paintings, and be true to their original colours? The CEO assigned Allen Rothwell, their colour specialist, to the job.

In late 2002 and early 2003 Allen visited us in Vancouver where we lived at the time. He brought with him the latest HP scanning machine, and scanned all of the paintings to make digital files. I asked him if he could create a ‘reverse’ edition of the images, which he did. Thus, a “Starry Night” version of Organiverse was born.

Allen had 25 sets of Organiverse printed in Toronto which were shipped to us a month or two later. This shipment included another 25 sets of the new “Starry Night” edition.


Example of an Organiverse handheld "rotation" Set

In 2006 we entered into another collaboration, this time with friend and fellow Snooker player here in Victoria, Brian W.E. Johnson.

Brian had an idea: we could put the mandalas on individual cards, for a total of 100 cards, and house them in a wooden container. We called these a “handheld set”, and you can read more about this on my website here.

Close friend and patron, Brian W.E. Johnson, 
a staunch supporter of Organiverse and its further evolution

(Also, here's a link to a previous post in appreciation of Brian.)

UNESCO International Year of Astronomy
Cand ollaboration with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada  - Victoria Centre

In 2009 Natasha was a volunteer for the UNESCO International Year of Astronomy (IYA) and its cornerstone project, “From Earth to the Universe”. She brought Organiverse to the attention of local astronomers, who included a video that was put together by Garry Sedun, then at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in an IYA exhibit in Victoria, at The Hudson's Bay Centre.


Natasha and Henri van Bentum, International Year of Astronomy 2009
Project in collaboration with RASC (Victoria Centre chapter)
"From Earth to the Universe" (FETTU). Videos of both the original and Starry Night 
editions of  Organiverse were part of the local FETTU event.

Videos on VIMEO

Luckily one of the RASC members, friend, amateur astronomer and fellow traveller Joe Carr, arranged to have the videos of Organiverse on VIMEO. Here is the link. 

Collaboration with NASA   "Coloring Space" project


In 2010, I entered into a collaboration with NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory through their public outreach program. The project was headed by Kimberly Arcand Kowal, Chandra's Visualization Scientist and Emerging Tech Lead. Our collaboration resulted in an online exhibit, "Coloring Space", juxtaposing images from space with a selection of work from the "Starry Night" edition of Organiverse. You can view the exhibit here.

Here is a recent quote by Kimberly Arcand, NASA's Chandra X-Ray's Visualization Scientist and Emerging Tech Lead, commenting on the collaborative project described above, "Coloring Space":

"There is such beauty to be found at the intersections of art and science, where we can negate the existence of two spheres and instead reflect on the commonalities and symmetries instead. Organiverse opens that door, bridging the micro to the macro, weaving the art with the science, threading the limited into the limitless." Kimberly Arcand


Astronaut Chris Hadfield on the Coloring Space exhibit:


“A lovely fusion of science and art.”

Astronaut Chris Hadfield was Commander aboard the Int’l. Space Station, 2013. Chris took with him aboard the ISS a memory stick containing all 100 Organiverse spheres, both the original and Starry Night editions. Earlier, in 2002, Chris was also made an Honorary Member of the international Circumnavigators Club, of which I've been a member since 1975.

Other Quotes About Organiverse

- “Organiverse is a glimpse into the multilayered beauty of all that is Life. These mandalas offer an immense opportunity for healing and for a heart-based understanding of who we are physically, emotionally and spiritually. A dance of colour, form and contemplation.” Dr. Mark Sherman, MDCM, CCFP

- “The technique of the [Organiverse] drawings is comprised of finely-tuned transparent and opaque layers of colour. This play of contrasts gives the work a three-dimensional quality enhanced by a delicate luminosity. The colours are complicated and would require a sensitive use of colour separation. In order to maintain the integrity of the original drawing imagery and effect, the most articulate reproductive methods would have to be utilized.” Rosemary L. Tovell, former Curator, Canadian Prints and Drawings National Gallery of Canada, 1979

- "Organiverse reminds us of organic processes on the cosmic and microcosmic levels. His work helps me understand the vastness, complexity and beauty of the cosmos. van Bentum's work is executed with a fine sense of colour and other elements. I see his work as a paradigm for enduring works of art in the future." Professor Leslie Mezei, (retired), Computer Sciences, U of T.

- "I am extremely pleased with the beauty and depth of the Organiverse Portfolio. It is a ‘Garland of Flowers’ in my daily experience. It is a wormhole entrance into both the depths of the starry night and the inner life process of the biosphere we inhabit. A tour de force that will reverberate down the annals of human cultural history. A unique and magical work of true and lasting significance." Brian W. E. Johnson, Victoria, BC. 


Organiverse - Mandala #23 of the #100 Set, original edition


"GUARDIANS OF THE ORGANIVERSE"


This just in :  here are Tashi and Karma, four-footed companions of a dear friend, 
keeping guard on an Organiverse handheld rotation set


Stay Tuned – a new development – it’s too soon to give any details, but Organiverse will be experiencing yet another iteration in its evolving life. We will share more information later this year.



2021/05/12

Natasha publishes "A Beginner's Mini Guide to the Solar Wind"

This week my life-long partner, Natasha van Bentum, put together a short website to mark International Day of Light 2021 - - - "A Beginner's Mini Guide to the Solar Wind."  You're welcome to visit it here.