Legal judgements are now a thing of the past at what was once known as ‘Parnas sub-district court’ – since the opening of the new courthouse in the summer of 2021, artists have been letting their imaginations run free in it instead. When Dorette Evers, an artist from Amsterdam Oost, was introduced to Patrick Jansen, manager of the former courthouse building, a year ago, less than ten rooms were being used by artists. There are now around 30. ‘All kinds of things are happening here’, she says, as we escape the tropical temperatures and step inside the cool concrete building. ‘Those paintings in the corridors, for example, were done by a friend of mine. Two other young artists are working on permaculture, growing crops based on natural principles. It’s really amazing.’
Evers herself also likes to work with what nature has to offer, or even what she can find on the street. ‘At the moment, I’m working with paint. I put it on paper and then lay a paper pattern on top of it’, Evers explains. ‘Because of the effect of the sun, a colour difference emerges, making the pattern visible.’ The extraordinary aspect of this is that she makes the paint herself, with the help of nature. ‘In the raised beds in front of the building, my paint garden, the things I’m growing include indigo, great mullein and violas, which I then use to make paint.’
By drying the flowers from the plants, grinding them to a powder and adding water, she gradually creates the paint she uses for her patterns step-by-step. She does it without adding all kinds of chemicals. ‘It’s not always easy though. Even paint that’s made sustainably preferably needs to retain its colour for as long as possible.’ This is why she is experimenting by adding vinegar and alum. ‘We’ll just have to see how it turns out.’
Playing with nature
As an artist who specialises in using photographic techniques and images, Evers likes to work with nature a lot: ‘In my own neighbourhood of Dapperbuurt in the Oost district, I have an allotment. And for my Green Fingers project, I taught primary school pupils to make paper from plants through play.’ Despite the fact that she adopts a scientific approach to her art (‘obviously, I need to be able to replicate the creative process’), the element of play is never far away: ‘It’s almost like being a child again, learning how colour pencils work. By playing with all these plants and colours, I can achieve all kinds of possibilities and colour nuances through trial and error.’
Public walking past
The building and rooms within it are not accessible to the public, so, for now, we can only guess what’s being created inside. But the fact that something is happening in the raised beds in front of the concrete colossus designed by architect Ben Loerakker has not gone unnoticed in the neighbourhood. ‘It’s remarkable how many times people approach to talk to me when I have my hands in the soil’, she says. ‘And the people are so friendly.’ Having experienced her infectious enthusiasm, that comes as no surprise to us.
In the former courthouse building, a museum of contemporary art is set to be developed by the Hartwig Art Foundation. The City of Amsterdam has purchased the building and will lease it to the foundation. The museum is scheduled to open in 2025.