MUNTHE ART MONDAY: Hanna Ten Doornkaat
Introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
My name is Hanna Ten Doornkaat. I am originally from Germany but have been living and working in the UK for many years. My work has been exhibited internationally and is held in collections around the world.
I have a MA-Sculpture from the Wimbledon School of Art and my earlier work included elements of process led installations, yet in recent years I have focused mainly on the meaning and concept of drawing. Working predominantly in graphite, I am concerned with examining how the boundaries of drawing can be pushed. I’m recently creating sculptural drawings that straddle both 2D and 3D spaces.
The process of drawing with a variety of media is usually a means to an idea and both are equally important. The accumulation of lines drawn closely together, the repetition of grids or the continuous writing of the word ‘me’ (as in the ‘self-portrait Me’ series) to cover smaller or larger surfaces, are an important aspect of the work. As are the spaces in-between which are like silences between each line and which are prompted by a decision of where to place the next line. The artworks are often built up in layers where the initial idea is concealed or appears as a fragment of something barely visible.
I compare my process to palimpsests in that I create a base for my graphite drawing onto a board or other suitable media at the onset of a process of erasing and redrawing lines, grids or other marks with graphite pencil, ink or biro that is repeated as many times as I feel necessary. Very often I completely erase what was there before only to then start to peel off and reveal small fragments, like an archeological excavation. The last layer is often another layer of densely packed graphite lines once again concealing a memory of the process. I believe it is important for art to act as a trigger to a memory of something lost and rediscovered.
My main interest has always been to make work and experiment with new ideas. This takes up approximately 80 % of my time. I generally work up to 7 hours every day making art and thinking about it. I usually start just after breakfast and once I have started a drawing, I usually don’t leave the studio for several hours.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
Being female has not directly affected my career as an artist, mainly because I have not allowed this to stop me from getting my work seen and taking initiative. In recent years I have set up my own network of mainly female artists who I have been collaborating with. We have curated several successful exhibitions and are hoping to continue as soon as the current Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
This does not mean I have not experienced the inequalities of male vs female in the art world, which unfortunately still prevail. There is still a male dominance in exhibitions and gallery representation, and I feel very strongly about this imbalance.
Can you name some other female artists that inspire you and explain why they do so?
There are so many female artists I can think of and whose art I admire for very different reasons. Marina Abramoviç, who I believe has helped and fought for women artists, Roni Horn and Phyllida Barlow to name but a few.
However, the one that has inspired my work for a long time is Agnes Martin. I love the quietly serene qualities of her paintings. The use of simple, reductive means evokes a meditative response, but they are immensely powerful at the same time. She devoted her entire life to the making of her paintings and was one of very few female artists who managed to achieve success in the male-dominated art world of the 1970s even though her paintings were described as ego-less, a characteristic one would not associate with many of her male artist colleagues at the time - quite the contrary.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
I think the greatest challenge for female artists is finding a balance between private life and that of being an artist, which can be difficult. A lot of studio time is dedicated to experimenting, planning, researching and thinking about art. Which is why it is often more difficult for female artists given their traditional family role. Tracey Emin, for example, has never made it a secret that she had always wanted to have a child but when asked about her reason for not having children she said: “There are good artists that have children, of course there are. They are called men. “This sum up how I feel about being a female artist. There is little space or time for a compromise, but of course I am not Tracey.
If you could own one piece of art what would it be and why?
That is not an easy one for me to answer as it very much depends on my mood and it changes often. But I could easily live with one of Franz West’s quirky blobs in my garden. I think it would give me a lot of joy every day.
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