Eva Straver is a student at the HKU, Utrecht’s arts academy. Her work has multiple characterizing factors, but the one most obvious is that her work always tells a story.
Where did it all start?
‘’My dad is a graphical designer, and I think that influenced me. When I was a kid I would already tell myself I wanted to study at an arts academy, even though I had no idea what it would be like. In high school I always made notes using drawings and all sorts creative handwritings. I went on an exchange trip to the United States and when I came back home, I lost my drive for art. I wasn’t actively creating art for about three years. I finished high school and started an European Studies education, but I missed creating. Ultimately my parents were the ones that got me to take another look at an arts education. In my first year of school, I just knew this was it.”
How can people distuingish your personality in your drawings?
‘’I’m a positive person, and I think people can find that in my drawings as well. A regular happening can be turned into something special. One day, I was waiting at the train station and I saw these construction men on high platforms, so I sketched them throwing themselves an aerial party. I enjoy highlighting small, everyday things.’’
Do you ever have insecurities concerning your work and how do you deal with those?
‘’Well, I still don’t know how I should characterize my drawings. I try a lot of different things because of it, and that slows me down. When I’m feeling shitty, it can take me a whole day to finish something small. I feel like I need to get more confident, and that takes a lot of practice. It will turn out fine eventually.’’
Do you already have a direction in mind to head in, after you graduate?
‘’I want to make things that matter, things that help others. I already have some ideas. A lot of kids get really demotivated when they’re forced to read these huge, boring history texts. Maybe I can make a visual concept that motivates them. I’ve got an idea to help the elderly as well. A lot of board games and card games aren’t adapted to elderly, and I think that should change.’’
Het Huis op de Heemskerckstraat
Why did you start Het Huis in de Heemskerckstraat?
‘’A letter I received from a woman, who used to live in my house until she was about four years old inspired me. Her mom wanted to see the current state of the attic, and I ended up taking pictures of my entire house. That’s when I realized I wanted to start this project.’’
Can you explain some aspects of the research process?
‘’First the person who contacted me searched her own attic for pictures and sent them to me. Coincidentally there was another woman living in my street, who researched the history of buildings for a living, and she found out about a murder that occurred in my house.
The City’s Archives took most of my time. I would search for my address, which lead me to pages filled with microfiches. These display handwritten documents and pictures. It’s hard to make something distuingishable out of the handwritings. So, when you finally find the correct words it’s a real energy boost. Sometimes I wrote down the names of people who lived in my house, and looked them up in another part of the archives. It’s all about finding patterns. Even the smallest piece of the puzzle could make for someting interesting.
Do you look at your house differently now?
‘’Yeah, I do. I feel like a kind of janitor, knowing everything that happened to and in my home. I made a blueprint depicting how the house developed over the years, and now it’s under construction once again. Hello? Shouldn’t they have asked me first? I want to hang that blueprint in the hall below, so everyone can see how the building has changed until 2017.’’
Could you explain what Het Dameshotel is?
‘’Het Dameshotel is meant to display the people living in a nursing home for the elderly. I mean to highlight the positive, funny factors, but also the sad situations people find themselves in. There’s this one portrait I drew of a lady living there, and the things she said really hit me, and that’s exactly what I wanted to show others. Some see it as their end-of-the-line.’’
So, you experienced these situations yourself?
‘’Yeah, I have been working in that same nursing home for about six or seven years. At some point I started writing down things that happened. I’ve heard some bizarre things, sometimes they’re just like children without a filter. A while ago a woman looked at me and said ‘you have such a big head’ haha.’’
Why is doing research a returning factor?
‘’You get to control everything yourself. I don’t want to simply draw something without meaning. There’s also the constant flow of inspiration I get from doing research. My drawings get shaped during this process. To me, research is part of creating.’’