Drawing on her life-long fascination with plants and nature explorations fueled by the environment of Breda and its flora, Mandy den Elzen directs her attention to the vegetable kingdom. Working on an unprecedented scale and with the support from the KNNV department in Breda, the artist has conducted a year-long fieldwork both in the urban area and adjacent natural terrain, collecting samples from over 1200 wild specimens.
Following in the footsteps of the great 16th and 17th century botanists and inspired by Aristotle’s approach to taxonomy, the artist reveals her preoccupation with preserving organic forms of the phytosphere. Den Elzen assiduously establishes a botanical archive of singular leaves. Having devised an innovative conservation process, she meticulously embalms them, consistently developing new methods of retaining specimens’ colours and life-like morphology. By doing so, the artist not only creates the first-ever physical herbarium of Breda, but also writes a symphony of diversity, functionality, and harmony, celebrating unique patterns and elaborate arrangements of each leaf’s shape and veins.
While, traditionally, herbaria existed as book catalogues, Mandy den Elzen broadens and advances the concept of preserving and presenting natural wonders. The artist has reconceptualised herbaria’s historical purpose by expanding our understanding of what lies beyond the visual. Embodying an ongoing enquiry into the exquisite aesthetic potential of pure organic forms, she exposes the splendour and wealth of lacelike patterns. She then elevates natural specimens to artworks in their own right by elegantly encasing them separately in glass frames.
Originating in den Elzen’s affection and deep respect for the natural world, this monumental flora archive is an ode to the complexity, interconnectedness, harmony and allure of the botanical empire. Building up this body of records, the artist not only immortalises the tapestry of Breda’s species but also instigates the curiosity in the local Phyto-kingdom, thus inviting viewers to contemplate nature in a more profound way.
Text by Marek Wolynski
Size: 500 x 60 x 240 cm
Made possible by:
Stichting voor Vrouwen door Vrouwen
Stichting Grote Kerk Breda
Open Monumenten Dag, Breda
IVN Mark & Donge
Aad van Diemen & Erik van der Hoeven
Jacques Rovers & Plantenwerkgroep Breda