Pier Luigi Tazzi, ENG

Evelien La Sud’s Vegetable plot
Not infrequently in our improbable century artists have turned their attention to undertakings that appear - but appearances count - far from the domain and mainstream of art.
Often enough, though, these diversions from the specifically artistic showed signs of weariness (with art).
They displayed a degree of imperfection/impatience with regard to the rules regulating the productive practices in their chosen field without renouncing their own artistry, raised instead to a different ground, not strictly its own.
As though art compared to reality, science, technology, and general production, was able either a bit more or a bit less to force every category.
In the face of perfection, art presented, in other words, a seed, a track, a breach, a lack, a non-observance, which breached the discipline of the cloister.
I was not really surprised therefore when several years back I found myself in the vegetable garden that Evelien La Sud had made at her home at Pastine in the Val D’Elsa.

Ever since meeting her I had found it hard to separate her art from the world in which she was immersed: her house, her animals, her children and her partner. So much so that I thought of them all as artists, and not of her art, but of their art as a phenomenon, not secondary or marginal, but as part of a much bigger picture that seemed to have as its focus the transformation of an environmental context. This concerned that particular place but also spilled beyond the physical boundaries to become something of a presence in the world. Consequently the fixed location and conditions of her existence were materials for being and acting that she transcended.
Something of a Gesamtkunstwerk, to which the surroundings and the people near her contributed.
Then there was the vegetable patch, a thing detached from them, born of her individual desire and determination.
The first task of such a garden is to provide nourishment, and then secondly, beauty. For this reason it was at a remove from the house, from her domestic sphere: it was outside that, even if the distance was short. It was beyond..
It is from outside we are nourished not from within our bodies. And a body composed of several members yet retains its own unity.
The vegetable garden was marvellous. It had nothing of Tuscan rigidity, nor did it suggest any rural parsimony. It had all the exuberance of a jungle.
I was told that the garden had been planted according to a system devised at the beginning of the last century and developed after the Russian Revolution to meet the terrible food shortages.
The main idea was to establish a complementary system between the roots of neighbouring plants. This meant that each plant was strengthened and that the earth remained fertile. The soil was not therefore depleted and the plants remained more resistant to parasites.
The planting of different species in proximity served to protect them from the various diseases that they would have succumbed to if planted in isolation. All this began on certain basis but then developed intuitively and with the accumulated knowledge acquired through experience.
To go into that garden and receive the produce - Evelien often presented me with generous amounts when we met - was to experience a range of species, where fruit, flowers, and medicinal plants grew in a profusion that inebriated the five senses.
As the garden grew, toads, snakes, and butterflies arrived that had never been seen before there. A microsystem developed: damp, shady, colourful, perfumed, fertile for all the species that passed through it or that had chosen it as their home.
Plants of the same family but of different varieties, when close together had their differences accentuated, almost as if their nature compelled them to search for, and discover, distinctions.
Natural disasters, hail, frost and the relentless heat, did not rob them of their beauty. On the other hand they appeared to show a determination to survive and it was always a source of joy to witness life return to the desiccated and damaged plants so that they might accomplish what might be called their respective destinies
For some time now Evelien has abandoned that project. Her things, like her art, have taken different directions.
Today that garden no longer exists as I saw it then and describe it now.
That garden today, and Evelien would confirm it if you asked her, is an orchard.

Translated in English by Heather Mackay Roberts