FROM BAR NIGHTS TO REMOTE ESCAPES:
NILS VERKAEREN ON HIS PATH TO BECOMING
A LANDSCAPE PAINTER
Nils Verkaeren’s landscape paintings encapsulate rural scenes from Belgium to Argentina. The serene compositions reflect the Antwerp-based artist’s longing for tranquility and direct contact with natural environments—two things that are increasingly difficult to find—forcing him to escape to remote places. Only then does he start painting landscapes that with time have evolved into the imaginary.
Nils is a daydreamer. He is already fantasizing about his next adventure to Mongolia, ideally, where he pictures himself living in a yurt that he would use as canvas. For now, his next destination is Colombia. Inside his characterful home filled with family relics and plants, the artist discusses his urge to escape to the wilderness, and his role in Antwerp’s social scene both as a DJ and former bar owner.
When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?
I was making things from the age of six, as both my parents worked in graphics and printmaking such as silkscreen and woodcuts. I decided to study painting at the Royal Academy of Arts to broaden my graphic design experience; I was interested in learning techniques that would allow me to develop my own language.
Where does your fascination for nature stem from?
My family would go hiking every holiday. I loved the look of the horizon—I’m a bit hyperkinetic—as it makes me feel very calm. That’s one of the reasons I started painting landscapes, to offer people a window where things are calm and you can look into things in depth. Also, I hope that, by letting people admire nature, they will gain respect for it.
That’s one of the reasons I started painting landscapes, to offer people a window where things are calm and you can look into things in depth.
Where do you usually go to find inspiration?
In Antwerp you hear cars everywhere. I look for places where I can be alone and nobody can reach me. I like to see what loneliness does to my work. We live in times when we expect instant reactions from people and we are constantly judged on our work. On my last trip to Argentina, I was using Instagram and Facebook; social media likes can make you feel better about yourself. On my next trip to Bogota I want to remove this part and be completely alone so the only judge I have is myself.
Not so long ago you were the quintessential urbanite. Tell us more about your experience as a DJ and a bar owner.
I opened the bar after I’d dropped out of the Royal Academy of Arts. While studying I worked as a bartender and as a DJ. Before I knew it I was playing in all sorts of clubs in town. Then somebody asked me, ’don’t you want to open a bar with me?’ That’s how it started.
What kind of bar was it? Is it still open?
It is. It’s called A Propos. It was a bar full of lawyers that I turned it into something very artistic. It was a really nice bar with lots of artists, writers, and musicians; very vibrant. I have a gigantic vinyl collection with more than 5,000 items. I used to play very eclectic music, anything from French chanson to jazz and avantgarde. I like to surprise people. But after several years of too much drinking I got fed up with it. That’s when I decided to quit and enrol back in the Royal Academy of Arts to finish my degree and, finally, do what I’m doing now.
Production & Interview by
Freunde von Freunden