Milah van Zuilen

Milah van Zuilen (1998, NL) is a visual artist whose work is focused on the landscape. She is intrigued by the contradiction between landscape’s complexity and people’s urge to neatly arrange, change, and organize it. She is investigating an earth-centric way of looking at it — instead of the anthropocentric, or a human-centric one. Van Zuilen works with real plant material, sculpture and installation. Also being a forest ecologist in training, the artist strives to bring the fields of art and ecology closer to each other. Fieldwork lies in the basis of her artistic method.

Milah van Zuilen graduated in Fine Arts & Photography from the Willem de Kooning Academy. Her graduation project Terrafuturism won the Ron Mandos Young Blood Award and was acquired by Museum Voorlinden. In the Netherlands, her work was previously exhibited at a.o. Kunstinstituut Melly, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Fotofestival Schiedam, and is now on view as a solo exhibition at Museum Kasteel Wijlre. Van Zuilen’s exhibitions abroad include presentations in the UK, Finland, Norway, and the Czech Republic.

For Fieldwork, Van Zuilen gathers and rearranges organic material, often cut into squares and neatly arranged as grid structures. The works are abstract, with a poetic quality. They resemble the Dutch landscape from a bird’s-eye view — agricultural land methodically arranged in a succession of rectangles. Only when you look closer at Van Zuilen’s work, it reveals the nerves and lines of the plant material. Metaphorically, it is the natural landscape trapped in the human square structures.

The shape of the square is central in Fieldwork and in Milah’s work overall. People often use rectangular designs to impose order onto the landscape and classify or oversee nature. Grids are used in taxonomy for plant classification, in cartography for terrain interpretation, and in agriculture for cultivation. To Van Zuilen, the square characterizes the human perspective and presence in the landscape. Her projects refer to the human grid structures and shapes while questioning the sense of ownership that accompanies them. Do humans have superiority over the landscape, and to what extent can nature be taken under control? Van Zuilen’s work explores these questions through her visual research.

Milah van Zuilen also studied Nature Conservation at Wageningen University and is currently pursuing forest ecology training at the National park de Hoge Veluwe. Milah is also a co-founder of JARO, a space for ecology-related artist residencies in the Czech Republic.

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