Aardzee by the Dutch artist Piet Slegers (Mierlo, the Netherlands, 1927 - Velp, NL, 2016) is situated in the middle of the vast Flevopolder. Measuring five hectares, which is as large as the surrounding plots of farmland, Aardzee is one of the biggest artworks in the Netherlands. The artwork can be accessed by two footbridges. Aardzee feels like a private oasis of tranquility in the middle of the open landscape of the polder.
Sheltered by the undulations, which roll through the landscape like pushing waves, there are paths covered in blue-grey shells - a reference to the sky and water. The poplars that are seemingly planted at random strengthen the sense of shelter. When the wind blows, the silver-grey leaves of the trees rustle like the murmur of the waves. (1) Zigzagging between the slopes, now and then a glimpse can be caught of the extensiveness of the surrounding polder. Only when you're standing on top of one of the hills you can experience the vast endlessness of the polder landscape in all its intensity. As the stilled motion of the sea bottom Aardzee sits in between the flat fields. (2) At one spot, Slegers has punched a hole in the dike that encircles the work. This made water from the adjoining canal flow into Aardzee. The water surface of the pond is the only horizontal surface amidst the slopes. With this work, Slegers refers to the transformation of the wild Zuiderzee into the serene polder landscape and to the dialogue between the elements of earth and water. With Aardzee, Slegers wants to give expression to the force of the water. The artwork is related directly to nature and the location's history. (3) With its stilled waves, Aardzee reminds us of the Zuiderzee that could be found here half a century ago.
For Piet Slegers, Aardzee was the crown on an extensive oeuvre that he worked on since 1947. Many of his artworks, often made of stainless steel, are inspired by nature but are frequently situated in the urban landscape or along the motorway. Slegers liked to confront nature and culture with one another. Important themes in his work are light, water and earth, which he ties together in a poetic fashion. An example of this is the Sfeerproject (Sphere Project, 1980-1981) that he designed for the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where the elements of water, wind and sun determine the work's appearance. Or Landschapsontmoetingsscupltuur (Land Encounter Sculpture, 1978-1992) in Lelystad, where two landscape shapes made of stainless steel rise up from the ground and meet each other in front of a complex of office buildings. The sun is reflected in the stainless steel as a 'breakthrough of light'. (4)
Location: Vogelweg (corner Lepelaarstocht, between Ooievaarsweg and Reigerweg), Zeewolde
Materials: earth, water, concrete clinkers, clay shells, blue shells, white poplars
Dimensions: 100 x 500 metres
Proprietor: the Municipality of Zeewolde. Earth Sea is located on the grounds of Het Flevo-landschap, who take care of maintenance.
Watch Omroep Flevoland's episode with Jord den Hollander about Aardzee by Piet Slegers (Dutch only).
(1) Jaap Bremer & Alex de Vries, (2004), Piet Slegers, p. 86
(2) Ibid., p.82
(3) Ibid., p.86
(4) Ibid., p.78