Rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands, the river Maas was the site of a transcendent experience for the artist Hans Waanders, for it was there in 1982, that he saw for the first time, a Kingfisher. From that moment on he was captivated by this glorious bird and it became the sole focus of his work. He pursued it through multiple mediums such as drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and text.
Some may consider it an obsession, but for Waanders it was a way to understand the bird, to connect with it and somehow retain the memory of that first sighting. He also made small printing stamps which he carved from erasers and filled books with them. Each work was a small observation about the nature of the kingfisher and its place in the world. In 2000 he placed a series of branches along the banks of becks in Grizedale to attract Kingfishers, which of course, he documented in a publication called Perches.
In a small handmade book called Edinburgh Kingfishers, Waanders made reference to the absence of the bird in his life by photographing anything with the word kingfisher in the title. One such place was a fish and chip shop called Kingfisher, another, the Kingfisher Gallery. For Waanders, the bird was a metaphor, for his own life; for just like the Kingfisher, he too lived his life on the boundaries of existence with flair and exotic charm.
It may seem that there would be little interest in such a niche collection, one that paid no attention to the trends of the art world and was so single-minded in its focus, but Waanders has become an artist of great interest and his publications have since been purchased by MOMA in New York, Tate London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Waanders had insisted that his body of work should continue to be shown to the world following his death and since his passing in 2001, his estate has ensured that his Kingfisher continues to travel from place to place.