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

Dr. Kimberly Arcand,
Visualization Scientist & Emerging Tech lead,
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory,
Center for Astrophysics / Harvard & Smithsonian

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.

"Coloring Space", a collaboration between NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory (public outreach program) and Henri van Bentum, artist

Not long afterwards, Henri and I collaborated on an interdisciplinary sci-art project, an online exhibit juxtaposing some of his Organiverse Starry Night paintings with images of space. (See above example). This resulted in the creation of "Coloring Space" which is still viewable on the web site for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Henri van Bentum, housesitting on Pender Island, B.C.

Our journey through light together would continue. A few years later, when my colleague and I wrote a book called "Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond", we included a small selection of artists, among them, my favorite, Henri van Bentum, with his acrylic on canvas painting “Light Sprang Forth”.

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. 

I’m thinking of him now, invisible particles and all light, now all the flowers on all the vines, dancing through our Universe. Maybe I will capture a part of his light (and life) in my own work someday.”


You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page
featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


Remembering Henri van Bentum, words from Dr. Mark Sherman (Henri's family doctor), given at the memorial gathering on August 13th, 2022

Dr. Mark Sherman, Henri van Bentum's family doctor

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:

“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.”

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.

Henri van Bentun at Rapa Nui (Easter Island), February 2000


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.

Grace Van den Brink

For those of you that don't know me, I'm Grace Van den Brink, and I came to know Henri and Natasha both as fellow Union Club members and snooker players.

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

Our former neighbour, Raymond Doucette, during his lengthy stay in Lalibela

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. 


Remembering Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) Message from the international Circumnavigators Club


"Henri van Bentum, artist, was truly a man of the world.

He was a long-time member of the historic Circumnavigators Club, a nonprofit organization founded in 1902 for people who sailed around the globe (*), and who believed in making the world a better place through friendship and understanding. 

Henri was an esteemed member of the Circumnavigators. 

We will miss him. “Luck to you”, Henri!"

David A. Mink, President

(*) The Circumnavigators Club is the only organization devoted to bringing together those men and women who have circumnavigated the globe by any means, crossing every meridian longitude in one direction. The Club's purpose is to encourage global fellowship and understanding. It strives to inspire people to see and absorb as much as they can about the world in which we live. Motto:  Through friendship, to leave this world a little better than we found it.  https://circumnavigators.org/

Certificate of membership for Henri van Bentum, Circumnavigators Club, 1975

You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


More from the August 13, 2022 Memorial Gathering for Henri van Bentum: offering by Dr. Seonaigh MacPherson


Henri van Bentum in Petra, Jordan

Henri van Bentum: A Life of Amplitude - by Seonaigh MacPherson

"I have been invited to say a few words about Henri as a friend and collector of his art. Yet, my first contact was with Henri as a teacher, so I would like to start there.


Our first contact was in a colour workshop Henri offered in Vancouver in 1987. In this workshop, he demonstrated how through three simple primary colours - red, blue, and yellow - the entire universe of colour could be generated.

As evidence, he had us prepare our own colour wheels. This reflected one of the abiding things Henri has shared with me - through instruction or by example - to return to the fundamentals.

It was a kind of simplicity, as he called it, or practicality, that was as apparent in his art as in his cooking, which focused on simple, nutritious ingredients combined to produce taste, health, pleasure, and stimulating conversation in equal measure.

The second thing I learned from Henri was creativity in living, not just in art. He modelled and embodied how, through modest means, it was possible to create a life of amplitude.

This is a rather odd word or phrase that came to me as I contemplated Henri, so I thought to check up the meaning of the term in the Meriam-Webster dictionary.

While commonly known to signify the size of a wavelength in physics, the definitions continued on to describe qualities of character rather than matter. In these cases, amplitude referred to an extent of dignity, excellence, or splendour or, alternatively, the quality or state of being ample as in fullness, abundance.
Henri van Bentum, crew member aboard "Esperanza", sailing from Ibiza to Italy 1961

This encapsulates for me the kind of creativity in living manifested by both Henri and Natasha - the cultivation, through modest means, of a life of dignity, excellence, and splendour that resulted in a sense of a full and abundant life.

The third thing I learned from Henri is one of the qualities ascribed to the motto of the City of Amsterdam's coat of arms described on the program: steadfastness.

In this case, he taught me through example and instruction the meaning of integrity, loyalty, and being there.


This final quality of being steadfast was something I valued deeply in our friendship as well - a kind of persistence, loyalty, consistency, and presence of duration.

Over the years, Henri and Natasha offered me a kind of refuge as I moved around the country and globe, a touchstone or reference point to return to over the years.

The second quality I valued was the sense of nourishment and enrichment I found over the years in his company. This included delicious meals, as described, which Henri tended to prepare, but extended to the rich colours and textures of his and Natasha's apartment, art, and clothing, collected from around their travels around the globe.

And so too it included enriching conversations and ideas, which were as much a part of the meals and overall experience as the appetizers, wine, main courses, and desserts.

Finally, I valued his quality of caring, a kind and generous capacity to take interest in the lives and well being of others.

As many of us, who knew him well appreciated, Henri could be fierce in defence of integrity and high standards of conduct. This ferocity was a kind of circle of fire that, once penetrated or crossed, welcomed us into his circle of care.


Why do I collect his art? Because just as he and Natasha gave me refuge in their home and friendship, his art and artistic vision continues to give me refuge every day in my home.

When despondent or deflated through one or another reason, I let my gaze fall on one or another of his canvasses to uplift me.

As others have pointed out, it is their use of light, colour, and perspective that give them this capacity to uplift.

As a sidebar, when I frequented Henri and Natasha's house for dinner while completing my doctoral studies at UBC, Henri like to tease me that I was becoming a Paper-Head Dummy (Ph.D.).

There was something very accurate in all that. I recall a doctoral seminar room in which dozens of chairs were stacked at the back of the room with no pictures on the wall, not even a poster.

It was as if as we reached this apex of education, we were somehow scaffolded out of our senses, as if beauty and awareness no longer mattered, to be replaced by a kind of abstract conceptualism.

In contrast, while Henri is known as an abstract artist, his approach to the abstract is distinctive - perhaps it might be called an abstract ecology.

It is this unique perspective in his art that invites a sense of connection to realities beyond the ordinary appearance of things - both to the cosmos, as has been well represented here, but also to the biological.

As above, so below.

Indeed, it is this biological resonance in his art that has drawn me to collect his work. In his canvasses, I don't merely see artfully placed shapes and colours, but echoes of our biological embeddedness.

Don't get me wrong: He did not paint them to be representational. Rather, they reflect his unique perception and an imagination that springs from nature itself.

In his abstractions, we see the resonance of the microcosm and macrocosm, implicit in the beauty of his forms.

"Coral Dream", acrylic on paper, 1965, Henri van Bentum

As an example, I have brought two of my favourite paintings of his. The first is "Coral Dream", an acrylic on paper, the first painting I bought of his when still a doctoral student. I wanted to invest in this rich life of the senses and feel that it wasn't something I was abandoning in pursuit of that paper-head dummy!

To better share with you my experience of these paintings, I perused the Internet for close up photographs of coral and found this image -- (here Seonaigh holds up a picture) --- that shows how closely his perception paralleled coral in the wild.

"Spatial Rhythms #2", watercolour on paper, 1983, Henri van Bentum

Likewise, the second painting, a watercolour, from his Spatial Rhythms series, always reminded me of chromosomes lining up to form DNA. Sure enough, when I looked for electron microscopic images of chromosomes, I found this picture --- (Seonaigh holds up another photo) --- with such close parallels to the abstract painting.

In this way, I hope you can join me in appreciating Henri's unique approach to abstract art as a way to perceive our interconnection with the microcosm of the Earth just as it echoes, too, the macrocosm.

So, thank you Henri, for having enriched my life and for living a life of amplitude. Thank you to all of you as well for sharing in this appreciation and celebration of his life."

Seonaigh MacPherson with Tashi


You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


Honouring Henri - by friend Brian W.E. Johnson at Memorial Gathering, August 13th, 2022

Henri van Bentum
1929 - 2022

Friend and fellow Snooker player Brian W.E. Johnson collaborated with Henri on several projects in connection with Henri's opus, "Organiverse", the series of 100 mandalas, and most recently on a narrated video project marrying poems by Rabindranath Tagore, including "Gitanjali" and "Fruit Gathering", with both the original Organiverse series and the Starry Night edition.

On Henri van Bentum, by Brian W.E. Johnson

A narrated version (by Brian) of the following text is now available on YouTube here.

“There has been much said already, with eloquence and clarity, about the breadth and scope of Henri’s interests and activities, and his life’s experience. It is amazing.

I would like to complement some these Macro considerations with some micro mentions. So here are some personal observations and reflections:

Today is Henri’s birthday, and he was born under the Astrology sun sign of “Leo” with a strong Pisces influence. The sign of Leo has “Royal” associations and Henri surely displayed these qualities.

Henri was the main character in this theatre production, and the rest of us are the cast extras, hanging about and tending to his royal Leo highness.

In the real world of the body politic, royal power is borne of the sceptre, representing temporal power in the kingdom. Royalty are feared and respected because of this.

However, in the case of Henri van Bentum, it is not the power of the sceptre and the royal army, but rather, an unusually sensitive and receptive presence that somehow casts a regal-like aura.

Henri lived with enhanced fluid sensitivity, especially to colour, nuances of form, shades and combinations… and, in addition to paying careful attention to detail, Henri embodied an expanded, or perhaps better said, an unblemished sense of wonder.

These combinations and receptive qualities help to explain how and why Henri would often enhance situations and people simply by his presence, and this in turn, would inspire creativity and highlight beauty, in many diverse situations.

Henri and I collaborated on several initiatives, most recently a video project that displays his outstanding Organiverse mandalas in tandem with the poetic verse of “Gitanjali” written by Rabindranath Tagore.

The following is Tagore’s poem #96 in this series:

"WHEN I GO from hence let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

I have tasted of the hidden honey of this lotus that expands on the ocean of light, and thus am I blessed - let this be my parting word.

In this playhouse of infinite forms, I have had my play and here have I caught sight of him that is formless.

My whole body and my limbs have thrilled with his touch who is beyond touch; and if the end comes here, let it come - let this be my parting word."

Rabindranath Tagore, "Gitanjali"

Henri van Bentum, left with Brian W.E. Johnson
August 13, 2010, at Sidney pier


You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


Henri van Bentum, Artist and Visionary 1929 - 2022

Just launched, here is the link to a new landing page, bringing together in one place several projects by the late Henri van Bentum (1929-2022).



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 Léger.

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).

The obituary of Henri van Bentum can be found on the McCall Gardens website, click here.


Written in 1972, reflections by Henri on his "Organiverse" series: background, history, thoughts

Art, Meditation, Ecology 

Atom by Atom - Dot by Dot

Mandala #3 from set of #100, Organiverse
Pointillism, 8.5 cm diameter, by Henri van Bentum

Created in Morocco and the island of Madeira. My work is in over 225 public and private collections around the world. All 100 mandalas are done in pointillism, dot by dot. The original Organiverse portfolio consists of twenty-five pages, each with four spherical drawings 8.5 cm in diameter.

"The work of Henri van Bentum 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." Former Professor Leslie Mezei, Computer Sciences, U of T.

Quote from the former Curator, National Gallery of Canada, Prints and Drawings:
“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, Curator, Canadian Prints and Drawings National Gallery of Canada, 1979

Organiverse is a meditational aid or 21st century kasina device. It is used to enhance meditation practice. 

“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

Back in the 1950's I was already looking at environmental issues. I've always advocated ‘Small is Beautiful’ and work on a small scale, using a minimum of resources for maximum results.

Click here for details about the Organiverse rotation handset which comes with a wood container made from recovered wood from Vancouver Island.
 Photo of the Organiverse handheld set

Notes on the original Organiverse Portfolio

This unique series of pointillism mandalas was started in Morocco in 1972.  Natasha and I were living in the former Phoenician fishing village of Essaouira, and afterwards moved to the island of Madeira where the work was completed.

The original Organiverse portfolio consists of twenty-five pages, each with four spherical drawings 8 cm in diameter. The work was made into a 35mm colour and sound short film by filmmaker Julius Kohanyi in 1973. He 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.

My motivation in creating Organiverse was to have it reproduced in a limited edition and made available to libraries, art schools, universities and museums. Although pleased with the film’s success, my goal had not been realized. The contemplative nature of the work, with its refined visual sensibility and meditative characters, was lost on the huge 35mm theatre screens.

Over the years, I tried to get the Organiverse Portfolio printed. However an accurate rendering of the colour was impossible owing to the pointillist technique (using traditional printing technology).

However, through a partnership with Hewlett Packard (HP), the portfolio was scanned and reproduced using the latest HP imaging technology, in a limited edition of twenty-five sets.

These scans were further used to create the new Organiverse: Art Meditation Ecology set, featuring each mandala on a separate card.

Creation of the new "Starry Night" edition of ORGANIVERSE

Following a successful experiment with HP, we had a reverse edition of the original Organiverse set created, called “Starry Night”.  I would like to thank Joe Carr, Brian W. Johnson and Garry Sedun for their technical assistance.  Click here to watch videos of both the original, and the Starry Night editions.

Mandala #25 from the set of #100, 
"Starry Night" edition of Organiverse, Henri van Bentum

Statement by the Artist

"While we are occupied with our daily existence, a great mystery takes place: Life, evolving in every form, from micro to the macro cosmos. We on our planet Earth finally begin to realize there may be other life in the Universe.

With this project, we share 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.

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. We have seen, when astronauts go further and further away from Earth, our receding planet then quickly disappears into what one astronaut simply called a dot.

We leave our own world behind, and find a new and alien world, until eventually we leave even that, continuing further to another dot, only to discover that it is again an unknown giant in space.

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."

Henri van Bentum, written in 1972


"What The Critics Say" -- about the work of the late Henri van Bentum, Artist


Henri van Bentum at work on a "Spatial Rhythm" watercolour, Arizona, 2015

“His microscopic attention to detail comes out most strongly in evocations of coral seen through the luminous waters of tropical seas, and in the textures of rock and ice caught in the suffused light of underground caverns.” TIME Magazine

“The best one-man show of abstract art I have seen in a long time is that of watercolours by Henri van Bentum. While too many artists seem to torture watercolour for expression, van Bentum exploits the natural delight of the medium so that it serves his most exacting thought.” Globe & Mail

“Henri van Bentum’s series of work, “Spatial Rhythms”, reflects his development into a controlled, simple interpretation of inner feelings; this series of paintings interprets the elements of music such as volume, mood and rhythm and are translated into tonality, colour and composition." Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta

"When he marshals his colour into circles, then places them like water drops on the white canvas, van Bentum gets a rich intricacy of light and depth. Some have jewel facets, while others contain the subtleties of earth, leaves and bark". Globe & Mail

“Viewing a painting by Henri van Bentum is a stimulus to the imagination. Perhaps his background as a diamond-faceter’s son is responsible for the almost crystalline aspect of his work. The single most extraordinary quality in all his paintings is an incredible luminosity, a radiance that emanates from within.

Completely introspective in his work, van Bentum is probably a born abstract painter. J.W.G. ("Jock") Macdonald, with whom he studied, was one of the first to encourage van Bentum to develop his individuality, and it is certainly under Macdonald’s influence that he achieved his present independence. van Bentum uses blank space as a positive. The missing element is essential to the whole. While none of his current work depicts any recognizable object, it immediately conjures up a mental word picture of a time, space, melody or situation”. Canadian Interiors



A Blue Light Prayer for the Colour Master Henri van Bentum

To the valiant, steadfast and compassionate (*),
venerable Henri van Bentum

Who sailed the waves of his incarnation so skillfully,

With the blessings of White Tara through space and time.

Having drunk the amrita of samsara and nirvana equally,

Drawn the primary brushes of eternity

Of red, yellow and blue, painting Truth of the organic universe,

Unfettered by the limits of word.

So generously, you imparted your Leo heart stories,

And 'Apologue stories' for all ages throughout the lands and seas.

Sharing, always sharing freely,

Delivered unhindered from the Great River,

Ever having danced with the Light.

May His Noble Heart continue to emanate

Unceasing waves of pure Wisdom and Compassion.

Having laid down his precious body

May the Protectors and Guardian Dakinis

Guard this Non-Sectarian Master,

On the Path that conquers all arising mind states

And leads to Total Liberation and Victory.

E Ma Ho!

Mandala #3 from set of #100, "Organiverse"
Pointillism, original size 8.5 cm. by Henri van Bentum, 1972

(*) Motto on the City of Amsterdam's coat of arms, Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig, qualities which Henri embodied.


Launch of Part Two: "Organiverse / "Fruit Gathering"


Today, Feb. 5th, we are happy to announce the official launch of Part Two, explorations with the poetry (songs) of Rabindranath Tagore, and Henri van Bentum's Organiverse, ("Starry Night" edition). 

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.

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.