Sjoerd Buisman: a retrospective

30.03 to 30.06 2013

How do trees that have been planted at an angle develop? How does a plant that is hung upside down grow? And how is nature perceived after it has been modified? Artist Sjoerd Buisman explores natural growth processes based on these kinds of questions. He observes, draws, and photographs the workings of nature and then interferes by, say, planting a young tree at an angle or tying a branch in a knot. After that he lets nature take its course again. In his more recent sculptures, nature manifests itself as something that is both more capricious and more vulnerable. CODA Museum presents a unique retrospective of his work from 30 March to 30 June 2013.

Growth sculptures

Nature and its laws and processes have always held a great fascination for Sjoerd Buisman (1948). At the end of the 1970s he developed his ‘natural’ sculptures, also known as ‘growth sculptures’.

Buisman went on several journeys, during which he looked for anomalies in the botanical world. This fieldwork resulted in a large collection of drawings, photos and texts that supports Buisman’s theory that nature can be manipulated but will eventually run its course and grow according to its own laws.

A good example of this is the Dennenwal (1985) in Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe. Buisman had a long row of pine trees planted there at a 45 degree angle, and manipulated them so each tree had a strange bend. No matter how much he interferes with the normal run of things, nature always resumes its course. Leaves will always grow towards the light, for instance, no matter how they are manipulated.


Around 1980, Phyllotaxis entered Sjoerd Buisman’s work. This botanical term refers to the arrangement of leaves around a stem. This development was prompted by a study trip to the Philippines he made in 1982. During the course of this journey, he developed a fascination with the spiral form in nature. With this he had found his form and theme.

It was a fascination that lasted; all the more because for Buisman the spiral form symbolises life (force), development, and growth, as it does in many cultures. During this period Buisman used various materials – from polyester and papier-mâché to wood and iron – for his sculptures. However, regardless of the material he used, the theme of his work remained the arrangement of leaves around the stem of a plant (phyllotaxis). Buisman incorporated this motif in sculptures composed of curved segments; sometimes as compact as a flower, sometimes as elongated as his Toren van Babel.

In his more recent work, Buisman focuses on eternity. Branches and twigs cast in bronze form an endless, angular rotation that refers to the ancient motif of the serpent biting its own tail. In other words, there is no beginning and no end, just the cyclical nature of the natural world. As such, the theme of the Ouroboros also refers to the round shape and the spiral in Buisman’s work.

Sjoerd Buisman

Sjoerd Buisman attended the Academy of Visual Arts in Rotterdam and was then taught at Ateliers ’63 in Haarlem, a leading art academy at the time. Buisman still adds to his oeuvre, and his fascination with nature in general and the growth of plants and trees specifically has not abated.

Or, as Buisman puts it himself: “Just like a traditional painter or sculptor explores the properties of paint and stone, I work with the possibilities of plants and explore their properties.”
Sjoerd Buisman lives and works in Amsterdam and Normandy alternately.

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