PETER’S GARDEN

PETER’S GARDEN

First published: Spring 2022

A mountainside in eastern Spain is studded with hundreds of vibrant sculptures that reflect their maker’s profound relationship with the land

Peter Buch was born in Frankfurt in September, 1938, as the Nazis consolidated their power over Germany. Soon, his leftist family, once relatively well-off, lost their wealth and social standing. Young Buch started school in the grim post-war years, but he was not a gifted student and quit by the age of 14 to work as a gardener. However, he was always interested in art and, a few years later, he enrolled in an art academy in Stuttgart to study painting. It did not go well, however; one teacher, demanding strict attention and self-restraint from his students, threw Buch out of the classroom due to his perceived lack of discipline, while a second insisted that the young artist should concentrate on acquiring technical skills rather than thinking creatively. By 21, Buch had had enough of art rules, and abandoned formal education for good.

 

Head with a Dream, stones, paint, ceramic and terracotta tiles, over a structure of steel rods and wire-mesh (an infrastructure the artist used for many of his works)
all photos: © Jo Farb Hernández

Heading for Paris to become a “famous artist” – a goal that he has long since abandoned – he took a variety of menial jobs that neither provided economic security nor served as an outlet for his creativity. He moved in with a girlfriend, worked as a house painter, did some travelling, and by the mid-1960s had fallen in love with the Spanish island of Formentera. The couple moved there in 1970.

 

A figure of painted concrete decorated with broken tiles and topped with a terracotta jug
 

During this period, Buch painted for pleasure. He also built and carved the frames for his art, perhaps a precursor to an interest in sculpture. After a 1982 visit to California, which he later said inspired him to conjoin his life and art, he began experimenting with concrete, making sculptures of animals and figures. However, the response to this work was disappointing and he recalls selling just one piece during his time on the island.

 


This figure is an example of the whimsical, fantasy characters that populate Buch’s Garden

By 1985, once again single, Buch travelled to the mainland planning to buy property – land speculation on the islands had caused property prices to rise steeply, and those without large inheritances or steady incomes were being squeezed out. In the picturesque mountain village of Pobla de Benifassà, in the eastern sierras of Valencia’s Castelló province, he bought and then extensively renovated a house. He affixed bas-relief and tiled works to the walls and floors and installed sculptures and paintings, altering the property so radically that he challenged his neighbours’ ideas about what a living space could be. Buch also purchased an eight-acre parcel of hilly land outside of town, planning to garden among its scrub forests and abandoned grape and almond fields. However, for the next 19 years, he alternated his time between Formentera and Paris, only visiting Pobla de Benifassà occasionally, until 2007, when he moved there for good.

by JO FARB HERNÁNDEZ

 

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #110