Henri Van Herwegen, known as Panamarenko, was born in Antwerp in 1940 and died on December 14, 2019.
In the 1950s he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and at the same time acquired extensive knowledge in physical sciences, chemistry and mechanics.
During this period, always in search of new materials and new possibilities of action, he carried out the most incredible experiments with strange and artificial materials in the company of Hugo Heyrman.
He coined his pseudonym, a possible contraction of Pan American and Co, or perhaps the name of a Soviet general heard on the radio.
In 1965, under his pseudonym which had become definitive, Panamarenko participated in a series of happenings, letting himself be guided by this chance to which he attributed his meeting with Joseph Beuys who invited him in 1968 to exhibit at the Düsseldorf Academy.
His first known works already mingled the laws of physics with a playful meaning close to cartoons: Magnetic shoes (with matching padded hat) for walking "on" a metal ceiling, etc.
Over the years, its identity is revealed as a constant exploration of space, displacement and gravity.
The expression of this movement, both poetic and scientific, will take the most diverse forms.
Flying or rolling machines, motorized or not, manufactured or remaining as models, to which Panamarenko brings scientific attention nourished by the study of the flight of insects, energy sources, propulsion, without ever ceasing to lose in view of his ultimate intention as an artist: the poetic symbiosis with nature and the elements.
In 1967, he built his first plane, inaugurating the long series of flying machines (Flying carpet, 1980, drawing). Panamarenko continues this approach with its creation "Rucksack" individual engines that can be worn like a backpack, "Aeromodeller" exhibited at Documenta 5 in Kassel and other achievements, sometimes on a model, sometimes on a human scale.
These achievements combine references to the life of insects such as a spring mechanism produces the vibrations of the wings, as in “Magameudon I” in 1972, or with allusions to Leonardo da Vinci and great technical sophistication, such as the Most of these devices are really capable of functioning (Bernouilli, 1995, various materials and engine). Panamarenko also looked at underwater life (Portuguese Man-of-War's Diving Bell, 1990).
Panamarenko is leaving us on December 14, 2019.