hans arkeveld: a life in art


A deep spirituality and a subversive sense of humour can operate at the same time in Hans’ art works, and this becomes more apparent when a collection of his works are brought together.

            Robyn Taylor, Transient 1963 – 2004

Hovea artist Hans Arkeveld has created a body of work so deep, so wide, it is almost impossible to describe. Hans works in bronze, wood, wire, wax, and any  object he can re-purpose to meet his needs. His pen and ink drawings have been compared to Leonardo DaVinci.

What! Leonardo DaVinci!

“I’m not a writer, I’m not particularly articulate, but I can paint and draw and work in 3D (sculpture). It’s how I express my thoughts and feelings about the world,”  says Hans, crowded in his workshop amongst a head-spinning collection of sculpture, models,moulds, samples, tools and contraptions.

Hans’ place itself is a work of art. From the house he built himself, to the shrines, sculptures, grottos, murals, the piles of paraphernalia – even the ‘bushfire emergency map’ on the front gate is testament to a life of boundless creativity.

As well as all this, and his public commissions, Hans has worked part time at the University of Western Australia in the anatomy department for over 30 years. Hans first found his way into the UWA anatomy department after art school when he was developing his knowledge and drawing of the human body. It wasn’t long before the university offered Hans lab work and then the chance to create models and teaching aids. It was helpful income for a young, independent artist. In 2000 UWA recognised Hans when they made him an Honorary Fellow.

Hans has altered our awareness of ourselves. His being here has made a difference to us. He makes us feel good about ourselves, what we do and how we do it.

                  Dr Jan Meyer interviewed by Robin Taylor, 2004 for the book Transient

Hans’ relationship with the university anatomy department is symbiotic and he is drawn to study of the human body, particularly the embryo and foetus, a motif frequently referenced in his work.

“The foetus lives in a world with no up or down. No gravity, no hot or cold. Its form is perfect and complete. In a sense we spend our whole lives finding our way back to this state. Buddhists call it Nirvana”, says Hans.

Hans’ work is collected by Janet Holmes a Court, Kerry Stokes, the National Gallery of Australia and many private collections, when they can get it. Hans can spend a decade or more on a single piece. Revisiting his work, making changes over time.

His work is more beautiful than heavy – although Hans says it’s his empathy with the plight of others that pushes him to work.

“My work is informed largely by my feelings on humanitarian issues – I know I react strongly to suffering. But it can be hard work being serious, so I also make work that is just for fun. It has no meaning at all”, Hans says with a laugh. Just the joy embodied in the work itself.

There is now a push, lead by indefatigable  author/ photographer Richard Woldendorp, to publish a pictorial book of Hans’ work stretching over 50 years. “I have photographed a lot of artists and their work”, says Richard, “I feel very strongly that Arkeveld’s work deserves much more attention.”

Hans doesn’t mind either way. “I don’t want to be famous or anything”, he says smiling, “To have my work all together in a book might be nice I guess.”

The Eye is currently producing a short video on Hans and some of his work. Check back soon to see it. You may be amazed!






  1. I have recently donated a super 8 film showing Hans Arkveld working on some of his scupture to the Alexander Library and they are going to digitize it
    You may like to enquire of the library how this is going and if you could access the film to see if there is any relevant information that may be of use to you

  2. Trudy Thomas says:

    Any news on either the book by Richard Woldendorp or your video on Han’s work?
    We have a few pieces of Hans’ work in the family and would love to see the end result of both these projects.
    Kind regards,

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