Salix alba

At the Zaartpark in Breda you can find a demarcated piece of land with a surface area of 49m2, which the municipality of Breda will no longer carry out maintenance for the next 20 years, according to the agreement concluded with artist Gerrit-Jan Smit. This summer I let go of my thoughts on what that 49m2 can be for me.

On February 25, 2021 I participated in a zoom meeting with artist Gerrit-Jan Smit and the people of Witte Rook. Gerrit-Jan spoke enthusiastically about his project, but also about the fact that he had thought that more would have happened with the 49m2 by this time. "Nothing has grown extremely fast, and visitors to the park don't seem to be aware of what that place actually is, which isn't a bad thing, but there could be so much more." Every season a photo is taken and a story is written about the 49 square meters. This summer I was asked to do this, and especially to approach it from my own art practice.

Salix alba ‘Chermesina’  Schietwilg / Knotwilg
Research into the growth of a white willow.

Awesome! a piece of land where I can do whatever I want. First I googled what exactly the Zaartpark is and found out that it is one of the most natural and nature-rich parks in Breda. In my practice I work a lot with nature and see it as a combination of art and a almost scientific research. It raised the question of what I could add to the 49m2.

That led to the idea of planting a tree. Trees have been the centre of my work for several years now, I try to approach this in various ways by always focusing on different parts. Still, I would like to know more, in fact everything, about trees. The best way seems to me to plant a tree and follow its growth.

Salix alba, autumn 2021, spring 2022, winter 2023, Breda.

© Archive Artist

The choice for the type of tree was quickly made: a white willow. I find this species incredibly fascinating because relatively little is known about it. It is quite an iconic tree in our Dutch landscape known as a pollard willow. The fact that we humans have turned it into a Pollard Willow is because the branches are incredibly flexible and versatile to work with, for example, by braiding the branches, they made baskets and garden fences.

On Saturday morning, September 18, I planted the tree. A Salix alba, or white willow. A young narrow tree of about 6 years old.

Salix alba, spring 2022, Breda.

© Archive Artist

Tracking the growth of the tree, in a study that will take years.”

year 1 / summer / 18-09-2021
year 1 / autumn / 15-12-2021
year 1 / spring / 15-06-2022
year 2 / winter / 10-03-2023