Eveline Kolijn 

EVELINE KOLIJN, BFA, 2008, PRINT MEDIA
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE INTERVIEW BY SUSAN JOYAL, DECEMBER 2015

From top left to right: Kolijn, Eveline. 2015. Breath of Life Memorial. Hand cut Styrofoam panels, plexiglass, multicolor LED lighting, 105 x 65 x 10 cms.
Kolijn, Eveline. 2009. Symbiogenesis. Intaglio. 55 x 55 cms.
One of twelve utility boxes completed September 2016 as part of a Public Art Commission of which Eveline was the lead artist and mentored 12 other Printmakers to create original print on boxes along 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue SW. This particular box done by Eveline is a visual acknowledgement that Calgary is built on traditional Blackfoot Territory. 
Metabolic Rift, a linocut on folded paper (28"x18"), explores the tension between our societal culture and natural surroundings. Made during a residency at the Vorres Museum in Greece in 2015, with many visual references to the museum's collection.

Eveline is outdoors when I arrive. Rocky, their new 5-month old puppy, rushes to add his welcome. He’s been with his new family less than a day and has lots of energy. So Eveline and I stroll through the country lot while Rocky races everywhere. It’s beautiful and you can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Inside her home, sunlight splashes through large windows into an open kitchen and that’s where our interview begins. Soon, though, we are wandering through the house because there is just so much to show and tell. 

A beautiful linocut of oversized microalgae (phytoplankton) populates long silk strips suspended from the banister. Lights off. Magic. The plankton silk strips, and the sea creatures that inhabit them, phosphoresce a beautiful teal-coloured light. Eveline explains that it took research and some experimenting to figure out how to make that ‘magic’ happen (and, as with all good magicians, the secret remains with her). In many ways, Ocean Veil II, and the story of its making speak to what inspires and captivates Eveline Kolijn and informs her art practice and her life – art, biology, learning, culture and community, and a concern for the environment. To that last point she adds, “It’s not about lecturing or fear mongering, art can make people think, raise their awareness.” Eveline characterizes her childhood as international, having lived in France, Venezuela, Belgium, Dutch Antilles (Caribbean), the Netherlands and Australia, and admits to a special fondness for the time her family spent in the Caribbean combing beaches for seashells, snorkeling and scuba diving along the coral reefs. A career as a marine biologist was once seriously considered.

Eveline earned her M.A. in Cultural Anthropology (1986) from Rijks Universities Leiden, the Netherlands. A decade later, she and her husband, Cornelis, and their two children immigrated to Canada and became Canadian citizens in 2003. Once settled in Calgary, Cornelis urged Eveline to apply to art school, supporting her long held desire to complement her self-taught art experience with formal training. That support and insistence is something she’ll always be grateful for. Eveline graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD) in 2008, having won the prestigious Governor General’s Academic Medal. She majored in Printmaking and, since graduating, has expanded her practice to include small sculptures, papermaking, and so much more. ACAD provided an important network of contacts though she hints alumni networks could be improved if an up-to-date and easily accessible contact database were available. ACAD also furnished students with “starter tools” to help them prepare for the practical side of establishing and pursuing a professional art career. Grant writing, the processes of applying for exhibitions and residencies – all these skills have served her well. So too, she maintains, have the many rejection and acceptance letters. All these experiences helped her to learn and grow and improve.

As for insights garnered in her four years at ACAD, she credits the College with helping her to better understand that art is a way of reflecting on one’s own experience, that art forces self-reflection and, as a result, the artist becomes more self-aware. When asked to proffer advice to students on the topic of establishing a creative business, Eveline was quick to counsel, “don’t give up!” and “go for every opportunity offered (= experience)” and “aim high”, then adds that lots of energy is needed. In her opinion, the only real obstacle she faced after graduating was access to printmaking equipment but she managed to equip a room in the basement with all that was needed, thanks to a dedicated savings plan and some ingenuity.

Books on science and biology and genetics, philosophy and poetry and art, the biosphere and evolution and climate change, and sundry other topics line basement bookshelves and tables. Eveline’s curiosity and enthusiasm for the world and all that lives in it is boundless and inspiring. Did you know that termite mounds act like lungs, taking in air and pushing it out once a day? There’s a beautiful hand-cut Styrofoam panel, Breath of Life Memorial, which accounts for the books on lung physiology and termites, and the fact that she once bothered to witness a bronchoscopy. There’s also a poem she loves by Rilke, Breath, which describes a connection between the lung and the sea. It’s all so interconnected and fascinating.

The story behind an intaglio series titled, Symbiogenesis, captivates too. A description was excerpted from her website: “symbiogenesis proposes that evolution of new and more complex organisms occurred through symbiotic mergers. The driving force towards complexity is not created by competition but mainly emerges from collective cooperation.” Thirteen tiled images of bacteria and cell organelles “cooperate” to form one larger image. One tile, Planctomyces, was reproduced on the front cover of a special issue of the Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Journal of Microbiology (October 2013) — a collection of scientific papers from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) conference that included Eveline’s invited paper, Observation and visualization: reflections on the relationship between science, visual arts, and the evolution of the scientific image.

In truth, Eveline showed me so many beautiful artworks and recounted so many fascinating stories in our brief time together, that I’ve had some difficulty choosing which ones to mention in this article. And so, I would encourage readers to visit her excellent website (evelinekolijn.com) to view her portfolio of artworks. She’s accomplished so much in just eight (8) years since graduating; her curriculum vita (available on her website) lists many solo and group exhibitions, public lectures, reviews, publications and more.

Eveline strongly believes that the arts enrich society and that active artists help shape cultural and economic prosperity by contributing to the community. When considering the question, “why do you think that creativity matters in the big picture?” Eveline articulates this thoughtful answer: “creativity matters enormously, especially in current times because we need to shift paradigms about how we interact with our environment, and about our openness to different viewpoints. Creativity can help solve the world’s problems, it’s at the core of innovation.” Learning is important to Eveline, and so is sharing what she’s learnt. She is an artist-mentor and founding board member of THIS IS MY CITY Arts Society and was appointed to the Calgary Public Art Board in 2014. Eveline also enjoys contract teaching and is an instructor with ACAD’s School of Continuing Education and an artist educator with the Royal Music Conservatory’s Learning Through the Arts program. Being well rounded, appreciated for the connections she’s made between art and science, and for her involvement in the community is what she’d most like to be recognized for. 

There is urgency to Eveline’s curiosity, accompanied by tremendous joy and enthusiasm in all that she does. A quote by Rilke seems especially apt, “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.” It seems to me that Eveline is living her questions now and has already found many answers that amaze. It was my privilege and honour to have spent a couple of hours chatting with this extraordinarily bright and talented artist. Her reply to the last interview question, “where does art fit into your future?” did not surprise: “My future is art.”