Calling his overall project The Encyclopedia of My Death van Eeden considers the time before his birth to be as important as what will follow his death, illustrating the fact that each human existence constitutes only a tiny speck of time in the broader history of the world. The material he uses is meticulously copied from magazines, books, atlases and newspapers, all of which must also adhere to the temporal constraints, thus lending the work a particular historical and visual texture. As individual cells within a storyboard, somewhat akin to a graphic novel, the narrative and distinct characteristics of the cast develop. Fictional characters that may have names drawn from literature or history are ultimately given new identities and narratives; the recurring character Celia Coplestone from T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party, for example, or the archaeologist assassin Dr. Oswald Sollmann, named after a little-known German pharmacologist and JFK’s killer. The work Zigmund’s Machine (2019) tells the story of Dr. MacIntosh and his boss Gert Zigmund and their successful attempts to create a special computer called the “Will Extractor”, with individual images presenting the laboratory and their surroundings, even encompassing technical drawings and views from their urban window, seemingly some time in the middle of the twentieth century.
As his works unfold as series, each distinct unit retains a collage aesthetic owing to the way he gathers and combines information. His medium of nero pencil, an oily compressed artificial charcoal, lend the works a certain drama from their nostalgia-infused film-noir aesthetic. Relying on tonal difference rather than strictly graphic line to create dense areas of shadow and contour, his drawings betray a painterly refinement. Yet he also brings a mood of historical certainty, either as a caption that looks to add authority to his narratives, or a facsimile from printed material such as a snippet of advertisement or a scientific annotation.
The networked discontinuity of his narratives has no strict center, with occasionally imperceptible links between image and caption. Often sentences are cut off mid-panel, or interrupted by ostensibly unrelated quotations. When combined as a number of identically framed artifacts, the series adopts a museological mood. His Cat. series expands on the archival paradigm, suggesting that each image has been carefully ordered and cataloged: Cat 2.4.1: Cream Cakes (2015) or Cat. 9: Explosions (2011), for example. By offering an obsessively personal perspective on history, and developing his ideas with his evocative and masterful draftsmanship, van Eeden has fashioned a vision that is unique in contemporary art.