German artist Hanna ten Doornkaat lives and works in the UK. Her work explores the process and meaning of drawing. The repetition of marks and lines often within a grid structure are regularly recurring motives. The laborious weaving and layering of surfaces creates fragments of something that is no longer there and moves between the visible and the invisible. She has been invited to take part in the Venice Biennale 2019 and is currently crowdfunding funds to participate. You can help her reach her target by donating here. You can see ten Doornkaat next month at The Other Art Fair, 4-7 October, Victoria House, London.
WIA: What are you doing today?
Hanna ten Doornkaat: I am busy preparing for a crowdfunding campaign to raise £15k needed to show my work at the 2019 Venice Biennale. I have been invited by GAAF, a Dutch non-profit foundation and their collaborators ECC (European Cultural Center) to join an exhibition of well known and emerging artists next year.
WIA: Tell us about your creative process.
HtD: The serial mark-making process is a crucial aspect of my work. Although it is process-driven, the visual impact of the work when viewed up close is also quite important and is something I hope the viewer engages with in a similar way. For me it is like a one to one conversation between me and the work. The notion of the line and its relationship to drawing is central to my practice. In my most recent works, the lines form as a direct response to the continual thread of fleeting moments in the online/social media experience. Lines have an aesthetic importance in each of the individual works, but also as an invisible or ghostly line, a conceptual idea that I have been interested in for a long time. I am trying to take away those very strict boundaries of traditional ideas about drawing and what is thought of as drawing. I often envisage the works in the form of an installation, in connection with one another rather than as solitary works.
WIA: Describe where you do most of your creative work.
HtD: Most of my work is made in my rather small and messy study at home but I also share a rather lovely studio space with a friend of mine where the work gets set up once completed. This is a good way of working as it allows me to distance myself from the work, and when I get back to the studio it lets me decide whether or not it requires another closer look, more work or ends up being painted over, sanded down and then drawn over once again.
WIA: What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
HtD: I have worked on lots of exciting projects in recent years but establishing WhiteNoise_Projects, a non-profit artists collaboration in an attempt to bring together artists and curating exciting exhibitions, is probably the one that I feel most proud of. We launched it with the White Noise exhibition at The Crypt Gallery, St. Pancras in October 2017 bringing together 14 artists. The list of artists has been growing and I am curating our next exhibition with three of our artists which opens on 5th September. The focus this time is on an all female group of artists whose work deserves to be seen more widely.
WIA: What made you decide to become an artist?
HtD: I have always been interested in art and creativity from a very young age but as so often life has a strange way of falling into place. I worked in international banking and precious metal trading back in Germany. When my ex-husband got transferred to London I finally got the chance to pursue my love for art.
WIA: What are you currently working on?
HtD: I am currently working on several different artworks both for Venice and also an exhibition at Arthouse1 in London, both opening in 2019. They are multi-panelled drawings. I am experimenting with a combination of both graphite and oil which I have not done before which is exciting. This does not mean I am going to abandon my trusted graphite pencil as I love the immediacy of it as a medium. I am not very patient and the long time it takes for oil to dry before it can be reworked or manipulated is what put me off up to now.
WIA: Do you listen to music while you work, and if so, what’s your soundtrack?
HtD: I don’t very often listen to music but more to radio programmes, yet recently I have started to listen to Nigel Kennedy playing a jazzy type of Hendrix and am loving it. Another favourite of mine when I feel like listening to music is Karen Dalton, a blues singer with a voice that touches me every time I listen to her. Unfortunately she is no longer with us.
WIA: What are the key themes in your work?
HtD: I don’t use themes as such as I have more of a formalist approach in my work but I am inspired by concepts. This does not mean my work is conceptual but more a minimalist and abstract translation of an idea. This could come from something I read or heard.
To give you an example and maybe a little insight into my thinking, I picked up a little book by Yoko Ono giving instructions to the reader, like trying to draw the distance between houses on the horizon. This inspired a series of mine called ‘When have you last seen the horizon (after Yoko O.)’ simply because I couldn’t actually really see much of the horizon.
Other ideas are inspired by the vast variety of images on social media and the pixelation of them that could be compared to what’s understood by a palimpsest.
WIA: What would you like people to notice in your work?
HtD: I hope it is seen as a conversation between the work and the viewer, which is why most of my works are very small. I want the viewer to take time to explore it, rather than only glancing at it for one brief moment.
WIA: What attracts you to the mediums you work in?
HtD: My main medium is the hardest, 9H, graphite pencil which allows me to inscribe into the gessoed panels which makes them tactile and tempts the viewer to touch the work.
WIA: What equipment could you not do without?
HtD: I love power tools and I use both a power drill to draw with, though not so much recently, and a sander which I need to sand down the graphite lines and paint to reveal and conceal the many layers beneath.
WIA: Who or what inspires you?
HtD: I think I have answered part of it above, but as far as artists are concerned one of my all time favourites is Agnes Martin. Also Brazilian artist Fernanda Gomes, whose approach to making works for her exhibitions and her reduced white objects and installations fascinate me.
WIA: How does gender affect your work?
HtD: Gender never played a big role until more recently. It really upsets me to find that the ratio of male artists versus female artists, a meagre 30 %, represented not only in galleries and museums but also in exhibitions overall is still so biased when 60 % of fine art graduates each year are female.
WIA: What’s your favourite gallery, or place to see or experience art?
HtD: I don’t have a favourite gallery but I usually enjoy the less established ones best and find that the work is often more fresh and less commercial. Works shown in established galleries are often un-inspiring. I recently went to see an exhibition by a very young and newly established art group called Warbling collective and most of the works on show were more exciting than what I have seen in a long time.
WIA: If you could own one piece of art, what would it be and why?
HtD: There are many works I would like to own but I think it would have to be a work by Agnes Martin.
WIA: If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be, and why?
HtD: As your question allows to choose from any time the same refers to the previous question and I think I would just want to watch Agnes over a period of time and learn how she approached each one. I know she was very critical with herself and the work and if she didn’t approve of it after she finished it she destroyed it.
This is something I have also never been afraid of even after days and many hours of drawing line after line. If my critical judgement feels that the work isn’t working for me it gets worked over and I have recently started a series called ‘Alice doesn’t live here anymore’ that is a reference to works that have had a previous life. It amuses me when I post these on Instagram and they immediately take off and get more attention than those that survived my critical judgement. Now what does that mean? Either my judgement was wrong or possibly that of the cyber audience. In the end it is always my decision and if my gut feeling said ‘No’ then it must have been right to destroy the work.
WIA: Is there an artist, movement or collective you’d like to see re-evaluated, or a contemporary artist who is underrated?
HtD: The groups whom I most want to advocate are women artists which is why I am using #SupportWomenArtists for my crowdfunding campaign. In addition, there seems to finally be a growing demand for artists who, like myself, run under the #oldemergingartist with art institutions seeking to represent those initially overlooked. I think it is time to change this.
WIA: What’s your favourite colour?
HtD: This changes and really depends on the mood I am in. I have moments where I use colour in my work but many of the more vibrant works eventually end up with the above ‘Alice doesn’t live here anymore ‘ 🙂 Currently I love very soft blues as in the series ‘When have you last seen the horizon’ but I also love combinations of grey, black, white and pastel pink combined with orange. As you can tell, not an easy one to answer.
As for myself? Black, red and crazy glasses 🙂
You can follow Hanna on:
Facebook: Hanna ten Doornkaat – Art
To launch the crowdfunding campaign I will be taking part in The Other Art Fair in Victoria House, London (October 4-7, 2018)