ELOISE VAN DER HEYDEN: Lasting Impression
ELOISE VAN DER HEYDEN is an artist. Born in the United States to Belgian parents, Eloise lives and works in Paris, France. Passionate about printmaking, Eloise, a graduate of l’Ecole Nationale Supérieur des Arts Décoratifs de Paris apprenticed in the legendary Michael Woolworth’s atelier near Bastille. Her haunting and beautiful work has been featured in group shows at: Galerie Insula/Paris, and Art Barter/London, as well as in Avallon, at L’Espace des Abattoirs.
To view additional work by Eloise please visit: www.eloisevanderheyden.com
Interview by Melissa Unger
YOU WORKED IN GALLERIES BEFORE DEVOTING YOURSELF TO CREATING YOUR OWN ART FULL TIME, WAS IT ODD BEING AN ARTIST WORKING IN A GALLERY?
Sometimes. There were aspects of it that I liked, others not so much… one of the most rewarding was interacting with passionate and curious clients. The exchange that occurred as we stood in front of an artist’s work was always interesting. Through this discourse I was able to see things in the works that I never would have seen before. I enjoyed the ‘time spent.’ There is a quote I like by Georges Didi Huberman that accurately reflects this sensation:
“Toujours, devant l’image, nous sommes devant du temps.”
In essence…when faced with an image, we are faced with time.
IS THERE AN EVENT OR EXPERIENCE THAT PARTICULARLY IMPACTED YOUR CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT?
Becoming a mother. Motherhood changed everything and triggered my interest in exploring the notions of bonding, attachment and union. It also introduced the concept of ‘distance’ and into my work.
Soon after the birth of my son we lived in London, but my studio was in Paris. There was a real separation between my home and my work life, I went back and forth every week and when I was away, I missed my son very much. As he learned to speak, I began to note the words & phrases that he said most often: ‘stay’, ‘come back’, I’m coming’, ’wait’, ‘go’…this dialogue had a large impact on my work.
At around the same time I was at a friend’s house in Avignon and in one of his staircases I came a cross an in situ text piece by Douglas Gordon. High up on the wall, in a corner, was printed: some words between a mother and a child…
I was transfixed by it and started to focus not only on the separation, but also the ‘fusion’ that we experience with loved ones…I began to try to express this bond between mother and child in my work …and also to explore the inevitable separation that eventually occurs…
TELL US ABOUT THE FIRST WORKS THAT EVOLVED FROM THAT EXPERIENCE:
Well, I work in the print medium and interestingly, the main mold in printing is called the matrix, in essence: the ‘mother mold’. To me, printing perfectly mirrors the imprint a mother leaves on her child.
My first ‘real’ series was a study of Christening dresses- to me they are a fascinating Western relic in which mother first clothes her child to present it to the world. No matter the gender, the child is garbed in this handmade, intricately embroidered garment… this woven cloth seemed to me an effort to recreate the umbilical cord, and also a means to keep the child sexless, small, close.
I remember that the first print I created of the dresses was very detailed, but then I added turpentine and it dissolved and dissipated the image…so as I worked on this series, I lived through a repeated cycle of bonding and separation much like the one I was actually living through with my son.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE PRINT MEDIUM THAT ATTRACTED YOU?
I’m quite reserved and I liked the idea that printing speaks more of the material and less of ‘me’…It isn’t as if I am standing in front of canvas wildly pouring myself onto it. I like the rigor and technical aspects of printing. Technique is very important to me. I enjoy the process tremendously, the constraints of the machine make me search and find solutions, it gives me a structure to work in. I like to manipulate the materials, the paper, the textiles, the machine itself… and the result is both direct and indirect; the print is even more precise in detail than the original object, yet the finished artwork remains conceptual.
WHERE DOES THE STARTING POINT FOR A NEW WORK TYPICALLY SPRING FROM?
Most of the time it starts from a fabric or a textile. I am constantly searching for inspiring fabrics, but sometimes a fabric just finds its way to me.
I enjoy long-term research, I forage around fabric shops, carpet stores, flip through interiors magazines, and then once I’ve chosen I try to get the fabric to sweat out its story.
My work always explores the notion of connection, of link…textures, knotting/unknotting, use, wear, unraveling/reweaving, and also death…I am fascinated by the imprints we leave on clothes, its as if they are sponges for our energy and humanity. We leave a trace of ourselves in them.
HOW DO YOU ACCESS YOUR CREATIVITY?
It’s interesting, if I wake up and have a specific idea for a work in my head, it always turns out badly, but if I get myself into the studio and organize my materials and create a sort of assembly line in which I can lose myself in a repetitive process, then interesting things emerge. I like to create a mechanization of the process, I move methodically, like a spider spinning her web, I repeat and repeat and then something happens… I’m in a flow… I even keep moving when mistakes happen, because they often lead to the best work.
I never look at a work right after I am done printing because it never looks like what I had in mind and I am always disappointed. It’s best to wait until you forgot what you had in mind in order to properly assess your own work.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR PLACE WHERE YOU FEEL MOST CREATIVE?
My Mom’s house always inspires me, it’s the house I grew up in…I like to take objects from there and bring them back to my studio; small objects, bits of cloth…
IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR BOOK OR TEXT THAT HAS HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT ON YOU?
Promise At Dawn by Romain Gary
The Tribal Eye: Antique Kilims of Anatolia By Peter Davies
Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt… a fascinating and moving exploration of a tradition handed down woman to woman for 9 generations!
I also like Louise Bourgeois’ texts and I loved the film “The Hours”.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT OBSESSION?
Shampoo and champagne.
That’s what my son suggested to people as gift ideas for my birthday last year!
A WORD THAT BEST DESCRIBES YOU?
Published: March 27th, 2012
Always thought you had it in you, but never imagined you could express it so profoundly. Deeply impressed.
Well done, Eloise.
I just started with paper beads – I love how you iorrcponated them right into mixed media pieces. I am going to try that… I love where my art has gone since I have embraced repurposing books and paper!!! Such a natural for a writer-artist.Good luck with your upcoming gallery show!!