Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital, 2008
The Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital is closely interwoven with Barbara’s personal history: her mother stayed in the hospital several times and eventually drew her last breath there.
The wall-filling work ‘Tribute to life’ is a celebration of the beauty of human existence in all its complexity. The work zooms in and out, as it were, on the smallest and largest elements of our earthly existence. Microscopic shots of healthy and sick body cells are interwoven with images of crowds of people and satellite pictures of the earth.The various images are combined into an organic and repetitive composition. The work consists of approximately 1000 images that Broekman collected from books, magazines, encyclopedias and the Internet. Next, these were cut out by hand, sorted according to color and arranged in patterns. Getting closer to the colorful and dynamic image, small portraits can be detected. These are persons - dear to the artist - who have been affected by cancer. Photos of her mother, taken directly after Barbara’s and her twin sister’s birth, are the base of the composition. The outlines of her face are a recurrent feature in this work.
With this almost hallucinatory work Broekman appeals to universal emotions. Broekman: ‘We are so insignificant in this universe, but so rich to be part of it for a moment. On the moments we stand face to face with our own mortality, we experience life to the fullest. At these moments, the senses are stimulated more directly and emotions of happiness and sorrow can become very close.’
The work can be experienced on various levels. From a distance one sees an abstract composition to which color, movement and form are central. Looking closer, the eye is pulled from one image to the next and one can experience the joy of looking at pictures. In a poignant way, the work brings together research and loving care.
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was the first to discover that all organisms consist of cells and ‘dierkens’ [tiny animals]. In Broekman, his books from the 17th century with drawings of a wide range of cells from skin, hair, blood, plants and animals, caused a shock of recognition. As an artist who regularly works with textiles, she saw in the intricate structures of microscopic drawings clear similarities with the techniques and patterns underlying textile. The drawings, that do show some order but are not perfect, have the same organic character as textile works. Small irregularities clearly betray the human hand. Enlarging the drawings and transferring them to textile produces an alienating effect that entices the viewer to look better and longer.