Jean Paul Ganem

Apologies for such a long absence! Let’s just say it involved scaffolders, chimneys, endless family illnesses, and a massive miscalculation of my work schedule.

Here is my appraisal of Jean Paul Ganem. He was meant to be my Artist of the Year 2008, but seeing as it is a bit late, he is now my first Art Star of 2009.

Jean Paul Ganem – I chose him because of his breath-taking vision and energy, the sheer beauty of his work, and his commitment to the total integration of humanity and human endeavour with nature.


midi-pyrennées (colombies). Sunflower plants, soil.

All images in this post are courtesy J.P.Ganem.

It was 1992 that Ganem made his first ‘agricultural composition’ in France . These consist of extensive geometric plantings of crops on farming land, such as wheat, rape, mustard plants and sunflowers. They are not only magnificent works of art, but generally involve much cooperation with farmers and volunteers, as well as an element of profitability – (i.e. the crop harvest).

jpg 2 mirabel

extensive composition in plots of land around Mirabel Airport.

Since then , his projects have been sited on farmland, at airports (like the massive Mirabel airport project in Quebec, 1996), and on building facades, such as his two recent Ombre de Ville installations at the former Darling Foundry in Montreal .  

designed for passengers flying in to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.

designed for passengers flying in to Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport


Ombre de Ville

Ombre de Ville, Montreal


















For me, the work that most strongly represents Ganem’s philosophy and methods is his massive and beautiful ‘ Jardin des Capteurs‘ , made with an army of volunteers on a former landfill site in Montreal (2000 – 2).

Jardin des Capteurs, composition of annuals, perennials and field plants.

Jardin des Capteurs, composition of annuals, perennials and field plants.

The 247 acre dumping ground is transformed into a landscape full of many types and colours of plant: a living field of vibrant overlapping circles and wedges of colour. Look closely at the centres of the circles, and you will see the upright metal pipes that give the work its name. These are in fact biogas sensors, which capture methane given off by deep layers of buried human waste, and provide a valuable source of energy.

Le Jardin des Capteurs demonstrates that used sites can be recycled and rehabilitated just like waste products or material, and in the process, it brings to our attention the infinite cycles and transformations of nature. There is a wealth of photos and videos on Jean Paul Ganem’s site  showing how this work came about.

Jardin des Capteurs

Jardin des Capteurs

Although there are similarities, a number of things differentiate Ganem’s work from what might be called traditional Land Art. He says himself, his work is not romantic or grandiose like Land Art. Indeed he positively separates himself from this approach by avoiding ‘virgin wilderness’ and working with sites in everyday use by humans. Another difference is that he incorporates an element of profitability (like the harvesting of his crop fields, or production of energy).

But as an unrepentant romantic myself, I can for sure see a romantic element to his work, in that it conveys a sense of the sublime and the transcendental. The circle is universally recognised as a symbol of unity and wholeness, and the simple geometric patterns he employs have been used by humans to achieve deeper levels of consciousness throughout the millennia.

composition of flax and lupins. St Juire Coussot.

composition of flax and lupins. St Juire Coussot, France.











All images in this post are courtesy J.P. Ganem. 

I agree with Jean Paul Ganem though: it is not grandiose. His work is spectacular, joyful beautiful, intriguing, and provokes in me endless questions about our relationship with the natural world… without preaching. (What a relief!) Most importantly, it works successfully as art – not the art of the commercially-based international ‘scene’, but the art of life itself, with its integrity, its endless cycling and recycling, and its moments of pure astonishment.

There are many further images and videos to browse on Jean Paul Ganem’s site, including indoor exhibitions and installations that I have not been able to mention here.
See also his page on Green Museum.

About throughstones

I am primarily a visual artist, living on the North Devon coast, a beautiful semi-rural area in South West England. I am interested in the eternal movement of life, and in full engagement with 'place' - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - particularly as it relates to what we call 'the natural environment'. It is a way of making myself at home in the world.
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