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  • Writer's pictureAlan Baker

Q&A With Hanna ten DoornKaat

You describe the work in the show as a 'repetition of marks and lines often within a grid structure, are regularly recurring elements' can you expand on your use of repetition in your practice?

The repetition of the lines has been a slow and gradual progression and is a very important part of my work. It is a layering process which usually starts with the gesso priming and application of an acrylic wash and a first layer of carefully drawn graphite lines. These are then sanded back to break the densely packed lines. A new layer is then added by masking off areas and often by adding geometric shapes. That is usually the point where the work makes a decision for me and that is what I find the most exciting part. I then add another thin wash which is again sanded back and the very last layer will always be a thin and dense layer of lines. This process of revealing and concealing could be compared to our new growing virtual world where images are instantly available and gone.

Your 'drawings on board' works have quite a 3D element to them, how did the works on board come about? And how does the 2D transition from paper works to board come about?

That is probably a result of my sculpture training which was always a combination of idea and process. Thus I have a spatial approach to anything I make, even if it is a sheet of paper. I consider the works on board to be wall based objects which could easily also become part of an installation in space; something I have been thinking of recently. Yet I also try to push the boundaries of drawing and this means I try to push drawing off the paper and into space.

In your 'drill drawing' video performances, there seems to be this fundamental understanding of the graphite and material used. Can you explain how performance influences your work, and why did you choose to use a power tool to perform these rhythmic actions?

I have not done much of that recently but again i blame my sculptural background but also my childhood. I grew up surrounded by huge machines in my family’s industrial woodworking factory. I love tools and machines! Graphite is a wonderful material and I love how it can be pushed into the paper and the random marks that can be made by pushing graphite into the drill; like a drill bit and then let the drill do the drawing. What made me do it ? A lot of my work requires a very disciplined laborious drawing of the repetitive lines or also the grids and i had reached a point where I wanted to apply a more random mark; less controlled.

Following from question 3, is the act of performance in drawing when the material is exhausted? Or do you feel it is when the artist feels it is finished?

It was the material in the first drawings but I then started to make my self portraits by continuously writing the word me in all directions across the sheet of paper where the finishing point was controlled by me. I have since made self-portraits by hand as I suddenly felt that there was a contradiction and more a ‘me and it’ (the drill).

Compared to your performances, your work seems to be dealing with shape and space, where they 'reveal and conceal' seem more rigid and controlled. Is this something that happens within your studio? Or do you already have a clear idea how the work is going to be made?

I think I might have answered that in 1 but the sanding and layering is where the control of the drawn elements is interrupted by what is often a kind of destruction as I can never quite tell what happens when I apply the sander to what could be a finished work. I have never had a problem with destroying a piece out of curiosity of the ‘what if’ and even if the result is unsatisfactory it does not bother me. The next layer will then change that and often these are the best works.

You've also described your works as “I directly respond to the continual thread of fleeting moments in the online/social media experience, whilst drawing information and memories from art history––even though the visual result is non-descriptive or referential” if you don't mind sharing, what are the references from art history and social media you're underpinning?

What I mean is that we are bombarded by imagery on social media and what our brain memorises is often just a fragment of something seen and eventually I make use of the vast archive of these fragments. I am giving clues, hints of artworks known and unknown. It is the same for the reference to art history which is usually a memory but always just a fragment. An example of that is the wall installation I made for the Personal Structures exhibition to which I was invited in Venice last year.I had to find a connection and I based the work on a Caravaggio painting. I memorised the colours then drew and painted on 32 same size panels of what I had picked up.

Drawing always seems to explore many different acts, sometimes it’s of slowing down and observational. Yet the use of line, shape and texture in your work is apparent. Is your work responding to each line and mark? Or is there another context here?

The line whether on paper or board is important. Its function can be that of defining a certain space, a line that divides or in many of my works acts as a screen only to be opened up again. It defines absence and presence in equal parts. The lines and also the grid in the abstract space of a page or the boards are like pillars that hold the entire construction of my work together if that makes sense.

You were born in Heidelberg, Germany and have had a UK residence since 1992. How do you feel drawing practices in the UK differ from those based in Germany or even Europe? (if this is possible to answer)

I think drawing has always been very important on the continent. I spent several years in Switzerland in the early 80s where my art education began and contemporary drawing was a lot more accepted as an art form than what I found in the UK in the early 90s. Good to see this has changed in recent years.

The ‘drawings on board’ and installation' works seem to be separate from one another, they can feel like they can exist independently. Yet they seem to be grouped together, or scattered around a space/corner of a gallery. Is this something that happened over time? Or is this choice pre-determined from the start?

I often have a space in mind but lots of the drawings on board can easily live on their own. A lot of my works are small and I have recently started to work in groups to create what I call ‘a conversation’ between each other. I also make deliberate choices when making work considering the architecture of a space which is why I also make works which wrap around corners. In some cases I have also made use of existing elements in the space which then turned the drawing on board into a floor to ceiling sculpture. This is difficult though and not always possible spontaneously.

Finally, what are your artists influences when it comes to your art practice?

I have quite a few and it changes though the one artist, which is obvious I think, and has been my main inspiration for a long time is Agnes Martin for the subtlety of her work. Others are Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman, Donald Judd and Fred Sandback. I am also a huge fan of Richard Tuttle. and Franz West. More recently, after seeing the exhibition at Tate Modern I have added Franz West to my list and a younger American artist Taylor A. White whom I spotted on instagram. This probably makes no sense in relation to my work but maybe that’s why and it might add yet another layer to my work in the future.

Many thanks to Hanna Ten Doorkaat, Jay Ottewel and Jayson Gylen for arranging this Q&A. Check out more of Hanna's work at

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