The heterogeneous geometric creations of Niels de Jong open portals into exciting new lands of adventure, full of boundless possibilities and the potential for self-discovery. Whether we follow staircases upward toward celestial realms, wander through mazes of jagged urban construction, or greet the curious characters who simultaneously emerge from and encompass fabulous structural landscapes, our paths often take unexpected turns and encourage us to make unforeseen connections. It is by way of these creative explorations and associations that de Jong reveals facets of his own narratives, all the while allowing us the freedom to unravel our own; to make each texture, pattern, colour combination or motif a trigger for personal memories or experiences to open doors in our imaginations, or to provide a spark which may kindle brand new escapades into the unknown.
Niels de Jong was born in the Netherlands and is currently living and working in Berlin, Germany. His formal training has been in a wide range of fields including graphic design, 3D modelling, architecture and wood working. Niels eventually graduated from HKU in Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a degree in Urban Design (Urban Interior Architecture). His history in architecture and his love for nature are evident in the geometric and organic shapes within his fine art. Niels has been exhibiting his artwork internationally since 2012.
WOW x WOW is incredibly happy to have ‘Night Shifter’ by Niels in ‘Lightning Bolts & Little Sparks’, our inaugural online group exhibition. Niels very graciously agreed to take part in the following interview to mark the occasion. Read on, as we get deeper into his inspirations and motivations.
We’re interested to hear about where you’re currently living and what you like about the area? What is the art scene like there and do you feel a part of that community? Are these aspects of your life that are important to your creativity?
For 5 years now I’ve been living in Berlin, Germany and what I like most about this city is that it’s pretty big (compared to Amsterdam and Groningen where I’ve lived before) and that every district is very different from each other. Berlin is very diverse and there is always something happening. There is a huge international scene, I’ve been in contact with 36 different nationalities in the first 2 years I was there.
The art scene is pretty big with many different scenes and I think I’m floating a bit in between it all. I see myself as a multidisciplinary artist and a person with many different interests, so it’s difficult for me to identify with one scene or group of people. As in my work, I like working with different mediums and I also like to hang around people with different interests. These aspects are definitely important to my creativity. Living in Berlin is one big quest and all the adventures I have, inspire me to come up with new ideas.
Your imagery looks as though it requires careful planning and considered preparation. Do you use technology of any kind to aid you with composition? Talk us through the creative process of producing one of your elaborately layered geometric paintings.
When I started out painting I did plan most of the work. I would make a rough sketch with a global idea of what it should turn into.
Then I would draw everything with pencil and rulers on the canvas and then I started coloring and adding a bit of detail.
For the last year or two I’ve been planning less and letting it happen. I start out with a small sketch and then draw it onto the canvas, or I sketch straight on the canvas with rulers. It’s a slow process. Then I start painting shapes and the basic idea and go from there using my intuition. In the middle of the painting process I add new sketch lines and finally will paint them or erase them when I’m not happy. Throughout the painting process I kinda search for a composition that satisfies me. I draw lines and connect them with each other, I erase parts of a line and connect that line with another one. This evolves in more layers of paint and shapes and it takes me longer to complete a painting, but I enjoy the process a lot more. I take more risks which goes with frustration, but the nice part is that unexpected things happen.
You have previously expressed your love of architecture, which is very evident in your artwork. We’d love to hear about your early interest in the subject and what it was about it that first captured your imagination.
From a very young age I was always involved in different fields of creativity and art forms, but could never really pin it down to one thing that I wanted to go for, and I still don’t have that really. I have always been very aware of my surroundings and how things look and feel, how everything is made and the way it connects. Also, how people live and work in a certain environment really interests me and with that came my interest in interior architecture. So I started to study interior architecture at the art academy in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Then I realized there was also a direction of urban interior architecture, I had no idea that was a thing but I loved it, so I made the switch after six months. What I like about urban design is that we can design the way you experience certain public spaces and the influence we have on how people interact and move and use a huge variety of materials. As we designed mostly public spaces and furniture we use natural material and nature, such as trees and plants in combination with metals and concrete for example. We have the opportunity to play with peoples emotions in a creative way.
Being an artist who works within the visual realm, can you shed some light on some of the most important inspirations and influences on your work that aren’t visual?
My social life is very important. Friends, family, love and good energy make my life livable. Without these people my life wouldn’t be satisfying.
If I’m not happy I don’t like creating artwork and if I do it turns into a waste of time. From the start, my dad has always been a big inspiration for me, growing up in a house where he was always drawing and working on woodcuts and linocuts was pretty cool. He is in his sixties now and still teaching workshops, participating in workshops, working on his wood and lino cuts, always trying to improve and learn new ways to create and I think that’s what it is all about.
Would you describe your paintings as a form of escapism? Either for yourself or for others. What do you hope that a viewer takes from your artwork?
I don’t see my paintings so much as fiction or escapism. I see my paintings more as a translation of my experiences and what I would like to see and experience. For me that is all pretty real, but for others it could be fiction.
First of all I always hope a viewer can appreciate the craft and skill that goes into creating an artwork.
I always paint characters to give shape to an idea and experience of adventure and exploration. The characters or masks as people also like to call them are sometimes the adventure itself or more a shell or door to the path that lies behind. If someone has that same experience, or my work inspires people to dream about more than they can see, that would be a great compliment.
What has been the most exciting life and impact you have you witnessed any of your art taking on, once it has left the confines of your studio? What kind of feelings do you have about letting your creations go and live their own lives in the big wide world?
I build a relationship with the work during the creative process and I either start to fall in love or I develop more of a friendly relationship with piece. When the work is finished I’m super excited about it for a short period and the ones you love are harder to let go and the friendly ones are easier to let go.
I think one of the biggest compliments I can get is when someone wants to buy one of my works with their own ‘I worked hard for this’ money.
It makes me happy to make other people happy, so it’s easier for me to let go.
What is the most dominant source of motivation for you to make art?
It just makes me happy and I feel satisfied, most of the time.
If you could own one piece of art from any of the world’s collections what would it be and why?
Oh man that’s so difficult, so many good pieces on this planet. I’m a big fan of a lot of work that has been produced within the last few years and the first that pops into my mind is one of the paintings from Erik Jones (US) from 2016. The combination of realism and geometric shapes and vibrant colors is mind blowing to me. I can look at his work for hours and it would be a dream to own one of his paintings. He uses all different materials in one work, such as acrylic, colored pencil, wax, paper and stickers in multiple layers. But there are many more artists I admire and would love to own work from like a huge sculpture from Botero.