SALVENTIUS | INTERVIEW
Close friends get to call him Niels Kiené, but you can refer to him as “that Dutch artist who does continuous one-line drawings which look really cool being produced in sped-up video form, and who Carl Marsh interviewed recently for Buzz”.
The name Salventius: why do you call yourself that, and where does it come from?
OK, that’s a good, good question. Well, the honest answer is – and it’s a typical artists’ response, but it’s true – when I was 12 years old, I dreamt of that name. There were some people and someone said in that dream – not to me, but it was, like, somewhere in the background – somebody said, “Salventius!” And I remembered the name because I thought, well, that’s a cool name.
So I wrote it down, and then I used it as a gamer tag when I was younger. If you go on the internet, you’d think there was nobody else called Salventius, but this is not true – there was a guy in Italy. I’m not sure what his function was, but I think he was a landlord or something [ed’s note: a senator in sixth century Rome, apparently]. I thought, well, that’s typical, it’s the exact same name, written the same! But for me, it’s like my second name since I was 12.
Do your friends call you that, or do they call you Niels?
My close friends call me Niels, but they also call me Salventius. It depends. If they are talking about my art, then they will call me Salventius.
Your artistic technique is continuous line drawing or one line art, created without taking the pen/pencil/brush off the paper. What made you settle on this form?
I was drawing like this, with continuous line drawings, for a long time – since I was about five years old. And maybe it started because I was lazy about lifting my pen, but for me, it pushes me to accept the moment when you create something. It’s important that it’s done in the moment: when I am drawing, something is telling me to draw an eye, but then I am going to force myself to draw a mouth. That’s really what pushes me, and for me it makes the drawing much more interesting and the process much more enjoyable. It’s like a sort of fight with myself; it’s not like a rollercoaster, not a battle, but it’s pushing myself to create something.
And that’s why I think it’s a success – because it’s a success for me. If I finish the drawing, it’s so exciting to meet the character that I’ve created, because a minute ago, it wasn’t there, and I wasn’t planning to do this. I draw a lot of portraits now, with a lot of faces – that’s also something I’ve just started. Suddenly I wanted to draw one face, and then suddenly there were three.
I once read that you cherish the mistakes in the art that you create. Is that still the case?
Absolutely, yeah. For me, it’s when my heart decides to do a mouth and my brain says “no, you’re not going to do a mouth, you’re going to do an ear,” then that somehow is a mistake. For me, it’s a mistake. Sometimes there’s a fuckup, but you don’t see it in the picture. Well, sometimes you see it happen. And maybe you see me hesitating [with the line] just a little bit – but afterwards, I continue to draw, and then I come to the next mistake. Suddenly, it’s not a mistake; it looks to me like an ear or a nose. And then I continue, and then I get goosebumps… because for me, that’s the most fun, when you make something out of a mistake on the fly. But yeah, I like the idea, the exploration, and the part of the adventure.
I also once said, “for me, it’s like life itself”. When I see a white paper, I’m not sure where to start. I start, and where it ends, I also am not certain. But in between, everything is an adventure. So yeah, it’s like life itself.
Do you still see yourself as a creator rather than an artist? As I know you’ve been quoted as saying that too.
I still have difficulties calling myself an artist, and it’s because other people can call you an artist. I see myself – as I really love what I do – more like a lover or a creator. And I think that the love, or the need for creating, that’s what I want to put in my work. Of course, other people call me an artist, and I’m used to it now, and I’ve accepted it much more than before. But before, I didn’t want to hear about me being an artist.
I also think ‘artist’ is a title, and if you create art, you don’t need to be busy with titles because that’s a different world. The other world has titles, with people such as the director, the second director and everything. And the thing with artists is that it’s just someone who creates something, or feels the need to tell something. It’s crazy enough to do that for 24 hours a day. And that’s what I do!
Do parts of your personal life ever make it into your artwork? As you said, you’re a lover of what you create…
Absolutely. I think all my work is from very deep within myself. Sometimes I try to explain to people who say, “how do you come up with the faces?” Well, it’s like if you walk on the streets: I’ve learned that only this part of your eyes records what you see, and the other part is just what your brain stores, but doesn’t use. When I am creating, or drawing, I use the part of the eye that I saw.
On the other hand, it’s not only about making portraits that look like other people I’ve met; I want to draw emotions, or stuff that people do. I find people so much more interesting, and I’m so blessed with the Instagram account – it grew so fast and I get to meet so many people. I’m so lucky, because it’s from all over the world.
I try to have a conversation with anybody that is buying something from me, or asking something. It isn’t easy now, because I get a lot of questions, but it’s sometimes [a case of] just cherry-picking the people. They tell their story. I feel so blessed that I’m allowed to create what I love to do and meet people whilst continuing.
words CARL MARSH