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Here and Elsewhere – a conversation with Irene Kopelman

Intimately linked to the notion of landscape, the work of Irene Kopelman is the result of field studies carried out in natural environments located in various geographical contexts: from the tropical forests of Central America to the glaciers of the Alps, from the lava fields of Hawaii to the Tatacoa Desert in Colombia. Her works are deeply researched-based and sustain a continuous dialogue with the natural sciences, of which she appropriates certain methodologies – study, observation, surveying, classification – without relinquishing the inherent subjectivity of the artistic process. Her projects are in most cases the result of collaborations with scientists and scientific institutions: the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Texel, for instance. 

The work of Kopelman takes many forms – installations, sculptures, paintings, publications – but drawing is a central component of her practice. Drawing is not only her preferred mode of observation, but also a mode of interaction – and even immersion – with the natural sites. ‘I can only connect to the landscape and understand its patterns and forms by drawing it’, she says. 

Focusing on a number of Kopelman’s recent projects, this conversation will address several notions that are at the core of her work, including drawing, the link between fieldtrips and studio practice, colours, and her collaboration with scientists.

Irene Kopelman (1974, Cordoba, Argentina) has held solo exhibitions at institutions such as the MAMM – Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, 2021; MAMAC, Nice, 2018; Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2018; MALBA Museum, Buenos Aires, 2018; Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon, 2017. She lives and works in Amsterdam. 

Irene Kopelman will be in conversation with the Forms of Life research group. 

Forms of Life is developed by Tina Gillen, Artist, Teacher and Researcher at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, Christophe Gallois, Curator, Head of Exhibitions at Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, and a group of students and alumni of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, in collaboration with Mudam Luxemboug. 

(Image: Irene Kopelman, On Yellows, 2019 (detail), courtesy of the artist)