“The way I paint, one could call that dreaming.” – Hendrik Koch
The Berlin-based artist Hendrik Koch speaks openly to us about his North German origins, his paintings, and about his dream to live on the countryside again someday.
Hi Hendrik, tell us a bit about your hometown and how you grew up?
I grew up on a farm with a population of 300 people near Oldenburg. My dad was a farmer and my mom a housewife. For me, agriculture was never very interesting. I had peers who wanted to get their tractor license but that was never my thing, however, that has changed a bit recently.
Did you feel like you grew up in an artistically supportive environment?
Well, I guess from a young age my parents noticed that I can draw and that I really like it. But it was never up for debate whether to put this into an artistic framework or even pursue it professionally. It was important for my parents that I learn something “tangible”.
What were your first works like?
I have always drawn and painted. In the beginning I tackled various topics that had moved and I presented them as small cartoons. I painted such small figures, one of them, for example, mowed lawns and cut off a swastika. But my beginnings were all very naive and cartoon-ish in style. Once I saw a documentary about forced prostitution in Turkey, and so I tried to visualize it in a drawing. It was very important for me to show something socially critical in my pictures.
In spite of everything, do you think your roots have influenced your artwork somehow?
My dad is a perfectionist, he always has had a very clear idea of what is going on and he works very hard. I think I have also inherited that trait from him. I work very hard at what I do. In addition, this affinity to nature that I have shapes me immensely. I am also aware that I would like to live in the countryside again at some point when I am older.
There is this place, Dangast, it’s located directly on the coast at the so-called Jade Bay. It’s very close to where I grew up. Kurhaus is a cultural space near by Dangast that has been around for a long time and it has attracted people from the alternative scene from the surrounding area for a long time as well. Behind the house though, there is a fascist monument and on the beach, you will find a penis made of bricks by Eckart Grenzer. The penis is meant to be a direct contrast to Jade Bay. If art took place anywhere near my hometown then it was there. This was the place where I was able to identify myself as a small alternative country boy and where I found approval.
Is your connection to Dangast still alive today?
Yes, I was allowed to bring some old work of mine there last Christmas and I had a small exhibition. That was a nice way to give something back to this place.
What does security mean to you?
It means a structured week and the financial security that I need for my survival. In everyday life I’m rather rational and need these securities, and I think that probably comes from my upbringing. In my art, however, this is completely the opposite.
How does this aspect express itself in your art?
I paint very intuitively. A few years ago, I did a lot of preliminary work and thought about what statement I would like to make with my art. That is not the case anymore. I’ve learnt to listen to my gut a little bit more and to capture certain moods in my art without looking for a bigger meaning behind it. So the way I paint today, I would call it dreaming.
Looking back I can always read my own paintings pretty well too, and I always recognize what was going on inside of me at that time. But as I was making them I was really just letting everything rip.
I have been working with both physically and mentally disabled children for a while. And friends of mine say the shape of the bodies I draw often remind them of the bodies of these physically disabled children when they look at my pictures. I guess that is something very interesting for me to hear because I often don’t see it myself.
Yes, in one of your pictures you also have a lot of handwriting built in, which reminds me, for example, of my elementary school days, when as a child you first learned how to write.
Oh wow, that makes sense! I work as a social worker and therefore have a lot to do with children. I’ve never seen that myself, that there could be a reference in my pictures, but yes you are right! Sometimes I have sentences in my head that sound nice and then I just write them on the pictures. It does not have to mean anything but it can mean something.
Do you have any idols?
I really like Andreas Golder and Daniel Richter’s works. Otherwise, I’m a big fan of the expressionists Franz Marc, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Otto Dix.
What medium do you work with primarily?
Paint tin, oil, accryl, pencil or felt-tip pen. Actually, I often combine everything that I can get my hands on. I also often work with collages. At first I painted on wood panels instead of on canvas’ because it is simply cheaper.
Do you listen to music while painting?
Yes, very much so to the point where painting without listening to music does not really work for me. My playlist includes songs by Pink Siifu, Christopher Rau, and Youandewan.