In the Zero of Form investigates Hanna ten Doornkaat’s recent series of works in relation to Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915). Devising his own version of abstraction, Malevich founded the manifesto of Suprematism insisting that ‘painters should abandon objects and subject matter if they wish to be pure painters.’[i] He sought to achieve this purity through the use of large-scale delineated forms of flat colour.
For ten Doornkaat, Black Square is precisely this, a pure work of art. Although the title, In the Zero of Form draws a clear reference to Malevich’s first exhibition, The Last Exhibition of Futurist Painting 0. 10, it is important to understand that ten Doornkaat’s affinity with his Suprematist paintings unfolded gradually over the course of her work. There was no preconceived intention to form an exhibition based on Malevich’s Black Square, but it was rather on reflection––after making the series of works––that ten Doornkaat realised how closely his processes resonated with her own.
In the Zero of Form epitomises ten Doornkaat’s serial mark-making process as an act of compulsion that leaves her work ‘sitting somewhere in-between drawing and painting’. Through the use of four materials––graphite pencil, gesso, acrylic and plywood––ten Doornkaat undertakes a repetitive process of ‘revealing and concealing’. As the graphite becomes a tool to carve, the plywood is not simply used as a surface, but as a sculptural material to inscribe into––to manipulate and transform. Moving between marking and erasure, building up to five or six layers in each work, ten Doornkaat exemplifies the transitory and ephemeral nature of her drawing process.
For Catherine de Zegher (curator, ON LINE: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, 2011), drawing is constantly in a state of ‘becoming’:
Drawing is characterised by a line that is always unfolding, always becoming… the first mark not only structures the blank page as an open field but also defines it temporally, as the drawing’s marks follow one another in time.[ii]
This description parallels ten Doornkaat’s drawing process in which the mark is in a constant state of flux and transformation. ten Doornkaat reveals that ‘the repetitive dense graphic lines’ is a direct response to the continual thread of fleeting moments in the ‘online/social media experience’. She explores this interrelationship between movement and mark, and its expansion into spatial formations. By approaching the ‘gallery walls as a blank space in which to paint or draw on’, ten Doornkaat creates installations with the intention that the viewer will ‘take in the entire gallery room as a whole scanned experience.’ The installation of In the Zero of Form specifically responds to the architectural space of One Paved Court. As such, the artist has divided her works into two installations across the ground and first floors of the gallery. The installation on the ground floor is particularly suggestive of the monochromatic compositions found in Malevich’s Black Square, whereas the works on the second floor, through the introduction of soft pastel colours, integrate the aged walls of the gallery space to move away from the idea of an artwork as a distinct object in space.
In the Zero of Form offers a unique insight into the work of ten Doornkaat and her experiences of what it means to make a mark in the twenty-first century digital age. The remaining works from this exhibition will undergo a process destruction by means of erasure, and provide the foregrounding for an entire new series to be shown in her forthcoming exhibition in 2019 in London.
[i] Kasmir Malevich, “From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism” in Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism 1902–1934, ed. John E. Bowlt (New York: Viking Press 1976), 130.
[ii] Catherine de Zegher, “A Century under the Sign of Line: Drawing and Its Extension (1910-2010),” in On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, ed. David Frankel (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 23. Published to accompany the exhibition held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 21 Nov. 2010 – 7 Feb. 2011.
Unless otherwise stated, all direct quotes are taken from conversations with the artist.