We chat to Cape Town based artist Kitty Dörje about her ink drawings and printmaking in this interview and glimpse into her day-to-day life in the studio.
Tell us about your latest series of intricate, detailed ink drawings – what are the themes you pursue in your work?
These garden drawings are the culmination of work after a couple of years of living near the sea. I have built up a few paintings as well that I hope to exhibit in Muizenberg. It was a time of getting in touch with my own rhythm and emotion while living by the sea. I moved to Muizenberg to get away and start a career of teaching to complement my art. It has not been easy as I have had to build up experience because I come from a Graphic Design background. I have drawn a lot in that period to process and renew. My main inspiration for these drawings is a visit to the spring at Kirstenbosch and it’s infinite consistency. I also visited the pools in the Company Gardens, Cape Town.
Water is the element I am working with as it is a metaphor of dealing with emotions. Enjoying the upsurges but learning to temper them and keep consistent. When you are in that moderated space it feels like you can go on to infinity. That ability of living into the future has helped with the flat I bought with my family in Muizenberg. It is almost a space I am steering into an unknown future. I became aware of the sea in my stay there as it is walking distance from Surfers Corner. I have spent a year there spanning all the seasons of the year. I started off boogie boarding in the summer and then retreated as the water got cold. I walk in the mountain and along the beach and next to the railway line, I walk a lot.
After a year and qualifying from UCT teaching, I working with children in the area. Giving them art classes. I did not find it easy to get a class but kept constant and earned regular learners. I kept going every Thursday, people came back. I met government workers that helped me set up a classroom through the Butterfly Project. This helped build up a routine of one day teaching and working on my drawings and paintings with the hope to exhibit them for the rest of the week.
You work in several mediums including ink, printmaking and painting. Which is your favourite medium and why?
Drawing, it is a straight forward medium but if you work with it regularly you can say a lot. It’s all about how you draw, what you are feeling. The mark making allows you to express yourself. Printing is also fun as you can play with colour. It adds a new layer to the drawing process.
I started painting after working with Julia Teal in Spencer Street Studios. The process takes longer the oils build up over time. I have been doing many paintings and studies and am hoping to show them in Muizenberg as there is a rich artist community there.
Describe your process from initial inspiration to final artwork.
I go on walks and collect footage. I then wait a few days to get distance and then look back at what I have shot. Some images resonate. I get them printed and put them in my source folder. I have a big source folder as I have been in Muizenberg for quiet a while with out showing. Then after a gym session I have a drawing session. I settle down to do drawing I find it flows easily. I go to life drawing sessions to free up my line, keep it flowing.
Was it a childhood dream to become an artist?
Art has always been something I enjoy. I come from a Creative family. It is something I come home to. It is a language a way I communicate with people. Doing something creative always creates a good energy, you feel expressed and you can communicate something to people.
You seem very inspired by Cape Town. Have you always lived here, and what is your favourite (and least favourite) parts of the city?
I was born in Cape Town I know it well. I have been living here for over 40 years. The long grey winters always seem colder here in the Cape maybe it’s because I don’t have heating in doors. All the migratory birds disappear to Europe. When summer comes the lifestyle of going to the beaches and mountains makes it’s all worthwhile. It is relaxed and physical, healthy. The nature feeds my soul.
Tell us about your studio and how you work – could you describe a typical day?
My current studio used to be a pottery studio so I have been clearing things out and getting things to work. I have a table where I can clear my head and draw. I have also done much painting in this space. It is not too far away from the main house. A studio is a good place for me to concentrate. I have a garden outside. I like having that natural element it is calming. It is not too far from the city CBD so I can keep in touch with Galleries.
When creating an artwork, how do you know when it is complete?
That is something that comes with age and experience. As I work I don’t push too hard. I take breaks and come back. When I return I know if it's finished.
How do you navigate the art world and cultivate a collector base for your work?
I keep my own work sure with regular practice. I visit Art Fairs and First Thursdays to see trends. I put in effort to build relationships with Galleries that I like. I go to openings and participate in shows to meet people. I make an effort to find out who the curators are. It is difficult to transition work from a studio environment to a commercial gallery, you need to allow the curator to get your feel.
What does success look like to you?
It is a routine that feeds me. I have been through a depression and have learnt to appreciate what is regular in my life. If I stay regular my output is my own. Success has shifted to an ability to interact and play with people instead of making money.
The Big Yellow Garden Ed. 27/27
What would your autobiography be called?
I would have an image on it for sure.
Do you listen to music when you work? Any recommendations?
I listen to ambient music. I started listening to Devendra Bauhart as I heard it in a book shop and asked what it was recently.
Fun question: If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you bring with you?
A hammock, cable ties to make a shelter and a knife for food. I might swop out the cable ties for a camera as I could get some images out that way.