Plankton in countless variations 

Argentinian artist Irene Kopelman (Córdoba, 1974) is fascinated by plankton, the microscopic sea organisms that are the foundation of the aquatic food chain. Kopelman uses a delicate hand to document what she sees through the microscope: constantly moving plankton in countless variations. The combination of art and scientific research yields surprisingly subtle drawings that also visualise our current predicament of climate change and the disruption of ecosystems. For this exhibition, Kopelman presents drawings and glass sculptures she made during her research at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), on the island of Texel.

Climate change and evolution of plankton

Irene Kopelman’s initial contact with NIOZ came through researcher Marcel Wernand during her 2016 residency at the Pompgemaal in Den Helder. From April 2019 she resided there monthly to investigate plankton’s growth and movement and the impact of climate change. What effect do changes in light and temperature have on the sea’s plankton population? And what can we learn from the shapes and patterns of plankton?

Drawings and sculptures

Kopelman records her observations in drawings and glass sculptures, which represent the cycle of a year. All her work speaks of a knowledge and love of the history of painting. Her plankton drawings evoke associations with early twentieth-century abstract painting.


Irene Kopelman lives and works in Amsterdam. For the past 20 years, she has been travelling the world to study landscapes and ecosystems, which has resulted in a varied oeuvre of paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, and publications. In February 2020, she began working on a project in collaboration with the Institute of Research on Cancer and Aging in Nice (IRCAN) and the Institut de la Mer de Villefranche (IMEV).

Thanks to the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea research (NIOZ), Texel