Eva Krause (b. 1970, Düsseldorf, Germany) is a Rotterdam-based painter. Her work borders on realism, surrealism and abstract art. Eva Krause works exclusively according to her own rules, which creates a unique painting style. Her paintings depict a combination of nature and objects in a somewhat like dream-like setting. The realistic-looking scenes and unrealistic representations allow the visitor to dream away in his own fantasy. The artist recently switched from acrylic paint to oil paint; something she always wanted to do but only dared to do so recently. Her courage was rewarded with a richer and deeper colour palette. The rich splendour of colours is clearly reflected in her most recent work that she created during her residency at Van Gogh Residence in Zundert.
VAN GOGH RESIDENCY
Next to the church in Zundert where Vincent van Gogh’s father was a minister, you will find a small house. The house was bought in 1862 by Vincent’s father who was the parish minister at that time. Nowadays the former home of Vincent van Gogh has a new function as an exhibition space for contemporary art with living quarters for the artists in residence working in the recently built, adjacent guest studio. The studio is located in the garden and artists from the Netherlands or abroad find space and time to work here for one month. The artists in residence are invited to “follow in the steps of Van Gogh” and create work inspired by this location.
Eva Krause came here in September 2020 to retire from everyday life and fully immerse herself in her artistic process. During the residency, the artist made a painting called Corso, which is inspired by Vincent van Gogh. On the canvas a bouquet of sunflowers is pictured, loosely positioned in a plastic bag from supermarket chain Albert Heijn. The bouquet is placed in the corner of a room against a wall with luxurious-looking wallpaper. A tangle of white brushstrokes is painted around the flowers, like a large lushly folded white ribbon that tries its best to embrace the flowers.
According to their own logic, images from Krause’s surroundings appear on the canvas. Literal aspects from the space around her, but also her day to day experiences, are given a spot on the canvas. Part of the studio floor can be seen on Corso, a recognizable floor with dimples, some of which have been painted gold. A number of pollard willows and a mosaic floor can be distinguished in an unfinished painting on one of the walls in the studio. The pollard willows on this canvas appear from nowhere. Next to the studio in Zundert is a beautiful old weeping willow, the largest Eva Krause has ever seen. The mosaic floor was created after the artist accidentally ran into a woman who makes mosaic tombstones. The studio is located next to a cemetery; the visiting woman was commissioned to make a tombstone for one of the graves at the cemetery. The fine mosaic stones contrast with the massive tombstones of natural stone. This fascinating encounter also ended up in the work of Eva Krause, in the form of a mosaic floor.
That something so enigmatic ends up on the canvas is not rare in Eva Krause’s artistic process. The visible process on the canvas is a reflection of the process that unfolds in Krause’s mind. The further the idea develops in her head, the more appears on her canvas. The artist doesn’t like to base her paintings on sketches or photographs. She prefers the things that manifest in her head. “I sneak into a work as a traveller in an unknown world. If I follow a road, another road appears, a new door, if I enter, there is no way back, but a new road, a new door. I prefer the detours on my journey in the paintings, the unexpected roads are the most exciting.” The work grows slowly but steadily over the canvas, like moss slowly conquering and overgrowing a broken tree on the forest floor.
VINCENT AS A PERSON
Van Gogh’s specific painting style and choice of subject have been re-invented several times by the guest artists in the guest studio in Zundert. Krause broke with this apparent tradition to focus on the story behind the person of Van Gogh. In advance to her residency, she read a book that didn’t focus on the painter’s career or his paintings, but that actually focuses on the person behind the painting. The sunflowers appeared on the canvas as a metaphor for Van Gogh, the embracing white ribbon around the bouquet symbolize the struggle that Krause read in the stories about Van Gogh’s life.
Vincent van Gogh was not an easy person but also didn’t have an easy life. He was poor, didn’t get any recognition for his art and in the meantime struggled a lot with his mental health. Krause recognized and elaborated on this struggle that Van Gogh experienced during his life in her work process at the residency in Zundert. The path she took to give her own touch to the subject was not exactly the easiest. After reading stories and letters about Vincent van Gogh, and chasing ‘his ghost’ all the way through Noord Brabant, the artist finally found her own take on the subject by focusing on Vincent van Gogh as a person.
ABSENCE OF PEOPLE
Instead of depicting the literal person of Vincent van Gogh, you see symbols that refer to him. This absence of man is characteristic for the work of Eva Krause. Krause prefers objects to people in her paintings. The painter finds the presence of people on a canvas too confrontational. Instead, she chooses to depict objects that symbolize man and the traces he leaves behind. The objects that Krause paints are either made by human hands or have human traits.
Anthropomorphism is an innate and unconscious thought process that colours our daily perception. Scottish philosopher David Hume explains that it is done to understand the unknown, mysterious world around us by using a model that man knows best: himself. Sigmund Freud, on the other hand, argues that humans anthropomorphize for an emotional reason, in order to make a world that seems hostile and indifferent, to appear more familiar, thereby perceiving it as less threatening. In fact, Freud argues that our understanding only goes as far as our anthropomorphism. However, both assume that humans assign these human characteristics to nonhuman things in order to comprehend the world around us. Either for an intellectual reason or for emotional reasons.
Animism assumes that souls exist not only in humans or animals, but also in non-human things. Despite the absence of humans in Krause’s work, there is still a soul present in her paintings. “I see it more as an inspiration, a feeling of presence, without a concrete humanized appearance, but with enough charge to refer to the human being.”
THE HUMANITY OF UN-HUMAN THINGS
Corso depicts something that is almost iconic for the street scene in the Netherlands: a plastic shopping bag from Albert Heijn. Usually, this bag is accompanied by a person, someone who has just left the supermarket with groceries. The plastic bag immediately evokes the thought of people. A work in progress on the studio wall depicts a number of weeping willows in human postures. One of the weeping willows is bent over the other, who is laying on a table. The scene has something theatre-like; as if it were a snapshot from a person’s daily life.
THE NON-HUMAN HUMAN
Despite the absence of the person of Van Gogh, Krause managed to capture him by attributing human characteristics to her painting and giving the canvas a soul. Either in the form of objects or in the form of abstract gesture that represents a feeling. The painter’s personal preference of objects over persons in her work does not preclude the viewer of the work from attributing human traits to the objects depicted. The subjectification of the objects in Krause’s work ensures that we experience the human presence without actually depicting a person.
Guthrie, S. E. (1998). Anthropomorphism. Called on October 8th, 2020, from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/anthropomorphism
William I. Grossman, B. S. (1969). Anthropomorphism Motive, Meaning, and Causality in Psychoanalytic Theory. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child , 78-111.
Website Eva Krause
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The work Eva Krause created during her residency can be viewed at the Van Gogh gallery during the month of October 2020.
This article originally appeared on the SEA Foundation website as studio encounter.