LATEST NEWS: HARRY HAS BROUGHT DOWN THE HIGHEST ROCK IN THE WORLD, FROM THE SUMMIT OF MT EVEREST. THIS WIL BE THE CENTERPIECE OF AP VERHEGGEN'S NEW ART PROJECT: 'THE SKY IS NO LIMIT'
7 summits is not only about climbing nice mountains, it can be
very inspirational as well in many ways. Famous Dutch sculptor Ap
Verheggen has made a huge work of art, called Terra Incognita (The Unknown
World) which was partly inspired by 7summits.com .
Ap and 7summits.com's Harry Kikstra have met a couple of times,
not only to view the artwork and discuss the thoughts behind it, but also to
expand on this work of art. Soon we will release our current plans for further
7summits art to the world. Also see Ap's website www.ApVerheggen.nl
for more info about this, past and future projects.
Designed and built in 2003 for Shell international by
7 sculptures of 3.6m high each
The total artwork is 50m long
To celebrate the work of Art which is placed in Shell's new EPI building
in Rijswijk, The Netherlands a limited edition book will be published about the
creation of the artwork. It includes photos of all stages of the work, the
connection with the seven summits and 7summits.com as well as quotes from
Following are selected quotes from the upcoming
Terra Incognita literally means 'the Unknown Land'. In many
ways, the realization of this artwork has resembled a voyage of discovery into
an alien world. Free artists are always probing their limits and constantly
trying to push back the boundaries. What is unique about Ap Verheggen's
large-scale art project is that it can be compared to a grand expedition to an
unknown world. The diverse and enthusiastic team of intrepid explorers succeeded
in pushing back the limits of the unknown a long way. Paradoxically, this also
makes the unknown world much larger.
'I think I've had a nonconformist method of approach ever
since. When I left college, I decided to focus exclusively on the free arts in
the broadest sense of the word. Because I've been able to develop my own method
of working, my approach is also a nonconformist one. I believe, for example,
that it's impossible to sketch good three-dimensional shapes in advance. That's
why I always take a spatial approach when I start "designing" my
pieces. You have to be able to touch a piece of sculpture, even during the
design phase. The tactile value is essential.' -- Ap
The convex side shows the 3d relief of the earth
The concave side depicts the 3d inverted relief of
The history of Terra Incognita:
I: The world in Relief
'If I reproduce part of a continent with a certain degree of
poetic licence, the result is disappointing. The wide frame of reference that we
all have is an enormous obstacle. A flaw, even if it's little more than a
millimetre, is considered out of place. Before consigning the entire project to
the dustbin, I came up with the idea of comparing it to painting a portrait. A
good portrait painter never copies an individual's face but emphasizes all of
the person's character traits. The strange thing is that the portrait then
resembles the individual even more.'
To apply this technique to an artwork depicting the world, you
have to faithfully reproduce all the contours and grossly exaggerate all the
relief. This is why Ap henceforth referred to his Shell project as 'a portrait
of the world'.
His first 'portrait of the world' was an upright relief of South
America. The bronze sculpture is roughly 50 cm high. Because a sculpture is
three-dimensional, and the reverse also plays an important role, Ap placed here
an abstraction of our solar system. This first figure prompted him to approach
Shell with an offer to create a global artwork.
2: The location
To obtain a good impression of the building that would
accommodate his work, Ap assembled all the drawings and plans of the Mainstreet
in the new Shell building, where the row of sculptures would eventually be
positioned. He then visited the hall when it was being built to absorb the
atmosphere. Ap says: 'The first time I saw the drawing of the hall, I was really
impressed, but I wasn't struck by its height until I had actually walked around
inside the enormous, tapering space. This automatically gives the hallway a
narrow appearance. The enormous space is a decisive factor for the direction of
the entire building. It almost transforms it into the needle of a compass.'
Another curious element was the contrast between the interior
and exterior. On the one hand you have a wall of glass, which because of its
size completely disappears against the backdrop of the external environment.
Despite being transparent, the office windows on the other hand give the
impression of an outside wall. Because the ground-floor windows are set back
further, there is a suggestion of the wall being suspended in mid-air. The
effect is amplified by a footbridge suspended at a great height, which runs
along the entire length of the building. The dimensions are such that all
references to human dimensions disappear.
3: The basic concept
Setting up an art project to make an impression on an important
client demanded a revolutionary approach in which technology and science would
merge. This was why Ap called on the assistance of Taco Zwaanswijk, the graphic
designer of this book. Ap says: 'He has the gift of approaching complicated
issues by looking at their basic concepts and then formulating them into a clear
project. With his help, I thought I'd be able to develop a concept, which could
be worked out in detail and as such would leave nothing open to question. I am
by nature someone who works more instinctively and leaves a large number of
things to chance. After my first meeting with Shell, I'd already discovered that
you can't explain things in terms of chance or feeling. I knew I needed him to instill
structure and direction into my project.'
Shell's new EpiCentre building in Rijswijk is a nerve centre from where
global processes are developed and coordinated. This fact was also to form the
basis for the new artwork. It was to radiate the concept of a central point.
The search initially focused on reference points: 'magic places'
that are compellingly attractive and evoke a universal 'yes of course' response.
After an evening spent brainstorming with several friends, Ap's desk was full of
transparent sheets on which he had noted down these geographically significant
locations. These sheets soon emanated an almost magical force of attraction
because they were covered with variously coloured stripes. An interplay of lines
that meant nothing to anybody except the brainstormers for whom they were
perfectly clear. Ap recalls: 'Our initial plan comprised references to the
Seven Wonders of the World, but we soon found that almost all of these wonders
were located in the same geographical area. So we took different lines of
approach: we played around with geographical elements: deserts, seas, oceans,
etc., until at a certain moment we finally came to the phenomenon of mountains.
What is more magical than a mountain? Mountains intrigue us all in some way.
Mountains are recognizable but have a different meaning for each of us. The
problem is that all the high mountains are again located in the same
geographical area. The Himalayan massif has almost all the world's high peaks -
a similar problem to the one we had with the Seven Wonders of the World. After
investigating many possibilities, the solution presented itself almost
automatically: take the highest mountains of each continent. What a brainwave!'
4: Eureka: 7summits.com
Ap continued to think about this but was convinced that there
were 6 continents and did not want to use the number 6:
'I'm the kind of artist that can get into such a state about
something like this that I'll abandon the entire idea. I searched around for new
lines of approach over a couple of weeks, also on the internet, and I chanced
upon an interesting site at www.7summits.com. And what is that? You might
imagine what a "Eureka" moment feels like, a feeling of total victory,
that you've scaled the highest mountain, without bottled oxygen. The site was
set up for mountaineers eager to scale the summits of the highest mountains on
the seven continents. SEVEN continents! I realized we had forgotten to include
Antarctica in our initial list.'
Each sculpture depicts (part) of a continent
The center of the sculptures is the highest point of
The direction of the sculptures is related to the
actual position of the mountain on earth
Dimensions of the sculptures
Looking for reference points within the space available and with a view to
finalizing the dimensions of his sculptures, Ap studied the construction
drawings of the new building again. He thought it would be a good idea to
reproduce the size of the planning grid, the building's basic dimension of 3.6
m, in his artwork. 'The sculptures would look their best if I took this length
as the defining factor for each individual element. After all, humans are always
looking for reference points within an existing system of dimensions. I suspect
the architect wanted to create a fantastically impressive environment in which
people can catch their breath. I obviously didn't want to interfere with that
idea. That's why my morphological idiom doesn't conflict with the spatial
dimensions. It did however result in other problems: how far can I go? To what
extent is it possible to execute an art project of such dimensions? Can I
maintain my credibility? What on earth have I embarked upon? - those were the
things I kept asking myself at that time. Numerous questions and no answers…
The midpoint and the scale of the sculptures
Taking this basic length as his point of departure, Ap soon discovered that
Mainstreet is a kind of connecting path between various structures within Shell
EpiCentre. Geologists and employees in other disciplines work at this Shell
location, and they all have one thing in common: travel. This makes their
geographical frame of reference very wide. So the artwork obviously had to be a
challenge for them, which is why the puzzle could be very elaborate. That is why
from the very beginning Ap put forward the idea that anyone looking at the
artwork should be able to make a sort of voyage of discovery before finding all
the references. The highest mountain was to be the very centre of each segment,
irrespective of its position relative to the North Pole. Around that midpoint,
the composition of a continent would determine the direction of the North-South
axis. This resulted in different dimensional scales, which means the continents
on the seven sculptures are no longer dimensionally interrelated, making their
recognition increasingly difficult.
The position of the sculptures
To complement his 'puzzle', Ap has also incorporated several other riddles in
the positioning of the sculptures within the building. People rarely ask
themselves why an artwork is arranged in a certain position or sequence, but
this setting makes it impossible for anyone not to ask that question. The
sculptures are positioned in such a way that the heights of the highest
mountains on each element decrease as you walk towards the rear of the building.
Consequently, Mainstreet starts with the sculpture depicting Mount Everest and
ends with Carstensz Pyramid, the artwork's lowest mountain. The individual
sculptures are positioned so that the segment of the earth's crust points
towards the actual mountain. The interesting thing about this is that it may
prompt a discussion about which direction is the shortest.
The foundations of the sculptures are 7m deep holes
due to the soft Dutch soil and heavy sculptures
Eight people were working round the clock on the
project at the foundry. The furnaces were operating mainly for this
Each sculpture was constructed from twelve bronze
castings because its size makes it impossible to cast it all in one
Terra Incognita stirred up many thoughts and questions in Ap
Verheggen's mind. Some remain unanswered. Some, which he jotted down almost in
diary form during the course of the project, he revisits now the project has
come to a close.
As he sees it, the Terra Incognita project has built a bridge
between the world of science and that of art, this time from the perspective of
art. The bridge could have been designed in various ways, but opting for this
particular link has resulted in the final product, a work of art.
In retrospect he says: 'The success of this artwork is
attributable mainly to the collaboration of four totally different individuals.
Start a dialogue involving an engineer, an architect, a designer and a sculptor,
each with a creative vocation. That's something we have demonstrated
collectively. This artwork can be the result. I use the word "can",
because the result depended so much on the boundless confidence that developed
between us while the artwork was being made. This is something that commanded my
admiration. I'm still surprised about the result today when I walk into
Mainstreet. It's sometimes impossible to find the words to express a feeling.'
Before Ap started work on this project, he was under the
impression that the entire world had already been charted and that all the
unknown locations had already been discovered. In his eyes, therefore, voyages
of discovery were unnecessary in this day and age. With Antarctica however, he
realized that an entire continent remains practically undiscovered.
'It's not so much the expanse of ice so many kilometers
thick, but rather about the question of what lies beneath. A similar question
also occurred to me while I was modeling the oceans. Only a fraction of the deep
has been explored in any detail. We are certain to find things there that will
surprise us. So there are still many voyages of discovery that can be undertaken
on our own planet. The numerous discussions I have had during my work on this
project have prompted me to formulate the following proposition: In our eyes,
present-day technology and science are very advanced. We know more and more.
But, because we know more and more, the area about which we know nothing becomes
greater and greater.'
(Photos by Gijs Moonen)