Into her studio: Minke Havelaar, artist and advisor

Minke is a communication advisor and runs an ‘Agency for Contemporary Communication’. She gives trainings and workshops on online marketing and social media. The past two years she studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Minke shares a studio space in the Aardappelpakhuis in Amsterdam Wittenburg.

What did you study? 
I have a Masters in communication sciences and I followed two years of part-time study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

A few months ago you searched via Facebook for clay sculptures made by children; that’s how we got in touch. Can you tell me more about this project?
That was one of my study projects. The assignment was “a job I never wanted to have”. It made me think of the artist Joseph Klibansky and his Jeff Koons-like sculptures that are all over the place. He is a very smart businessman, earning tons of money by copying someone else’s ideas and style. Let’s say he is making art for all the wrong reasons. Everything I don’t want. That brought me to the idea to do something with kids’ clay sculptures: They are so authentic and made with so much creativity. For my project, I made copies of them with a 3D printer and show them next to the original.

Why did you decide to start with art?
In my job as a communication advisor I work frequently for art institutions, like the Sandberg Institute. Somebody there asked me why I wasn’t making any art. One summer I started experimenting and painting. It was as if a floodgate had opened. All a sudden I knew that I wanted to do this!

Describe your studio. 
This used to be a potato warehouse; Het Aardappelpakhuis. The potatoes were brought here by boat and they were stored before the trade. Since the late 1970’s it has been a creative space. It’s very lively: we have artists, designers, textile artists, photographers working here. I share a studio with a photographer and two graphic designers.

How many hours do you spend in your studio? 
I give trainings two or three days per week, which means that I am working on location. At least two days per week I work from my studio. Then I do PR work for my clients, develop trainings and work on my art projects.

Do you have a theme? 
In my art projects, I address social-political problems like social inequality, sexism, populism, racism. These issues are keeping me really busy, being fully aware and thereby confronted with the fact that I enjoy white privilege myself. I paint to bring order into my own thoughts. But sometimes I just try to let go and focus more on the making than on the story.

Is your art influenced by the fact that you are a woman? 
Yes, for sure. I think that because I am a woman I do care about the social imbalance between the sexes. Probably as a man I wouldn’t care so much.

Which artists do you admire?
Sophie Calle: her life and her art are totally intertwined with each other. You can not put a label on her art, she continuously reinvents herself and chooses new formats for her work. I recognise that. In my work, I don’t choose a medium as a starting point either. Jenny Holzer: her texts are so confronting and sensitive at the same time and I like she works on a big scale. David Hockney: his way of painting!

What kind of work do you make? 
I collect thrift and I recycle a lot of material that I find on the street. In the studio, I store my found treasures behind a curtain, so it looks less messy. A lot of my work is 3 dimensional, like little sculptures and installations. I make digital work, too and work a lot with Photoshop.

You are a social media expert, how do you use this for your art? 
Social media is also one of my themes. The way it influences and changes the contact and interaction between people. And the way we look at the world. I always thought I would have a website with my work straight away and share my art with the world through social media. Now I understand how scary that is! I don’t have a portfolio
website because I feel my work is not ready for sharing yet.

Will you switch to full-time art-making someday?
I don’t think so. But I hope that my job as a communication advisor and my art will merge. This is happening already: I am involved in a more creative way with my clients’ projects; I develop campaigns and concepts and do a lot of copywriting. Of course, I hope to have exhibitions and do residencies in the future but I don’t believe in the classical model of an artist who only makes art. Times have changed: people are having different jobs and careers at the same time. This suits me too, plus I like my job as an advisor a lot. Through my trainings and workshops, I can help people to use their strength. And it is super rewarding to see how surprised they are by what they can do!


Follow Minke on Instagram
Photography + Text: Julia Kaiser