World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 70 - Eric van Straaten

I saw Eric van Straaten’s sculptures at the All Tomorrow’s Parties exhibition in Sis Josip’s Gallery in The Hague. Conti Hermenet and Sis Josip were intrigued by Eric van Straaten’s 3D art, where three dimensional figures, including colors outside, are built layer by layer.

3D printing emerges all over the place. Hearing aids and dental crowns are now 3D printed. Also in the art there is an interest in it, altough it proves hard to get in the grip. Eric van Straaten is one of the rare artists in the Netherlands who is already working in 3D. “Digital suits me so much more than doing it by hand”, he says, “besides the fact that I am maybe just not that talented to work in handicrafted materials, I am also not very interested in the ‘accidents’ or uncontrollable circumstances that create expressive qualities in more traditional ways of working.”

Girls

He is more interested in works that are as close to reality as possible, with the alienation coming out of playing with sizes and combining non-existing parts in the scenery. “I am so pleased that I can make infinite and tiny changes to the models without starting all over again when something doesn’t work. If you make a mistake: just undo!”

His theme is girls, lovely young girls of an uncertain age. Eric van Straaten: “I am not that interested in the male figure as such, I think the average male personality characteristics have brought a lot of sorrow to the world. As I am a man, I am also predestined to have a rather narcissistic and perhaps childish way of looking at life. For me, the focus on girls on the threshold of adulthood reflect both my own obsession and that of contemporary western cilvilization with (frozen)  youth.”

Rapid prototyping

And how did he come to 3D printing? “About four years ago, I was trying to make a commercial so-called ‘BJD’, a Ball Joint Doll, very popular with collectors in Japan. I made a prototype in wax and casting a series in resin. Because of a combination of insufficient training, laziness and perfection, this was becoming an ordeal. At that time my partner in love and work Jennifer Hoes, received an invitation to participate in a subsidized workshop at the technology institute TNO in Eindhoven. She suggested that I could participate also and try to make the doll in Rapid Prototyping.”

Within about three months he was able to make a printable and working prototype and about four more would follow. It was displayed at Dutch Design Week. See http://bit.ly/1NQFJXu . He also discovered that commerce wasn’t the thing for him, but he had the idea that the technique maybe was the answer to the problems he was having by working by hand in visualizing his artistic ambitions. After some experiments in monochrome materials, he discovered with help of i.materialise the way to directly print in color.

Pop culture

What inspires Eric for his artworks is depictions of the human form. “Especially women, without too much ‘distortion’ or ‘distraction’ in the technique. Therefore my tastes are a bit ‘old fashioned’ or maybe even kitsch. I don’t like to make expressive, abstract or conceptual work. As sculptors I really like Bernini and Furienmeister, a kind of Bernini in tiny ivory statues.” The artist most important for his development is Hans Bellmer. A doll maker and painter in the surrealist movement.  Sis Josip showed a short movie about him at the opening of All Tomorrow’s Parties.   

Eric van Straaten: “I like to be ‘drawn in’ by the scenery, and this happens the most powerful in portraits. I also consider my own works to be more portraits than sculptures. Art that works for me, is always multilayered. I like it when at first glance, there appears to be just one, mostly beautiful, ‘truth’, but when you look deeper, there is something else going on at the same time. The greater the artwork is, the bigger the difference between the apparent truth and the reality of the whole.”

His tastes may be a bit old fashioned, but he is a child of his time, he says. “So content wise I am inspired by let’s say pop-culture in general, the current youth culture in Japan, USA’s culture  in the seventies and Europe’s in the eighties / nineties. Needless to say that ‘Lolita’, first conceived by Vladimir Nabokov, but now an iconic figure, is important in my work.”

Work-around

Technically he is inspired by the ‘struggle’ to achieve a ‘perfect’ result with limited means. “Although working in the digital domain seems to provide you with unlimited means, 3D-printing at this level is a big technical challenge. I like to think of ‘workarounds’ without becoming too much code-minded. I strive to combine user friendliness with different kinds of software. This feels more like an artistic voyage than a technical one.”

Doesn’t Eric have other themes? “I am not that interested in political, sociological or any other themes outside myself, I am a bit narcissistic in this respect. My ‘theme’ will always be myself. I struggle with things like sexuality and getting older, love and loneliness, being childish and living like an adult at the same time. If I change, my work will change, but some hang-ups might prove to be temporary. But we’ll see.”

Intriguing form

There are a lot of animals in his work, is there a specific meaning? “For the most part, I am not quite sure why the different parts in the scenery of the artworks go together. When I work, I try not to think too much about what I am doing – if I do, it doesn’t work out well. I just go with the flow. Explanation is done afterwards. Perhaps the animals provide a way to relate the girl to something like the forces of nature or at least something animalistic.”

The animals change or make clear the apparent innocence or vulnerability of the girls. “At the same time, they ‘force’ the girls to take some action, sometimes sweet, sometimes aggressive. Some would say that the animals stand for the artist himself. Sometimes he is just a spectator, sometimes an actor guiding, or undergoing the action.”

He concludes that the female form is one of the most intriguing forms in the world. “At least for men. Our survival in the sense of the continuation of humans as a species, depends on choosing on sight the best genetic ‘partner’. At the same time this very animalistic urge is attached with all kinds of meanings that don’t seem to relate to our evolution as a species.”

Image 1: angry mermai, 2: chucks, 3: new pincrush, 4: pelicans, 5: bambi bait, 6: little prince, 7: wasp, 8: cheerfa, 9: fallen angel, 10: father, 11: fit, 12: groomer, 13: smoking hamster, 14: solafide

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