I recently stumbled across a quotation from the French composer Edgard Varese who restates this truism better than I could – “An artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.” This is why we here at Relevant love art, expression and open-minded thinking; we appreciate the value of brining forth the next generation of talent, in order that more people become up to date with their own time.
Institutions such as Estudio Nómada are important in this aspect as they facilitate the harnessing of young talent, giving them an environment, surrounded by fellow young artists, which aims to awake the creative daemons within them. One of the studio’s founders, Arnout, was available for interview so Relevant pressed him for his views on art and his aims for this project, but started out with his pretty awesome life story.
We heard that you live on a boat, tell us about that.
Well I’m from Holland and I’ve been sailing my whole life basically. When I was 24 I originally studied literature and communication and after getting my masters I worked in and office for a bit and I thought the idea of being in an office my whole life was horrible! So I studied to be a captain, and worked like that for a year and then there was a summer when I realised that maybe that wasn’t the coolest thing either. But it still appealed to live on a boat as much as possible. I changed my plans and bought a boat that was completely rotten and spent a year fixing it up – we did the inside first so that after about 6 months we were living onboard; this was about five years ago now. Then, stupid as we were, we moved in December, it was minus 10, ice inside the boat! It was awesome but it was a shock! We flew to Barcelona for a weekend to defrost and thought – we have to live here. So yeah, we decided, just like that, we sailed here, it was a seven week sail that wasn’t without incident; I’ll tell you now the Bay of Biscay is interesting, pretty intense piece of ocean!
What made you want to set up an art school here?
We first arrived when I was working as a copywriter, and while we were sailing here I got a text from my Dad saying “there is a crisis.” I laughed and thought “really?” but then quite a few of my customers started cancelling and it didn’t look too good. My wife is an artist so she was looking for some space to work and we thought it’d be cheaper to share with other artists. It’s an awesome place here, my wife makes these huge sculptures which needs somewhere as big as this. We did this for around four years and then there was this girl who wanted to come and use this studio to study, she did it with a thing called a Da Vinci fund. And for us this really nice to take someone like her under our wings and show her how we were doing things. We thought we’d like to do this some more, so in September 2010 we officially started this place as a school and within half a year we were full here so had to rent another place as well. It’s taken off really fast!
How much can a school such as this add to an artist’s ability, how much talent needs to exist already?
I think you can add a lot. What happens with talented people, ok this example is from what I know in Holland but I think it’s a global thing, when they’re in High School for 14/15 years they’re trying to react to things, there’s very little creativity. So we try to focus on the process, you can’t really create natural talent but you can focus on what the artistic process looks like and that’s not about sitting and waiting for lightning to strike before creating a genius piece. It’s about working, it’s about really dedicating yourself to the artwork, getting out there and getting feedback, creating dialogues with your audience, teachers and peers. This is really important to grow as an artist, conceptually and in the process, learn how to do research, how to follow a fascination. You often see when someone has a great talent to draw but when they’re 18 what they draw just isn’t that interesting to look at, that’s what you can train.
What value does art have in today’s world?
Wow that’s a big question. I never like to say some specific things and that’s it, it’s a personal, subjective thing. For me it’s important that art is there to open your eyes to things like change, to broaden your consciousness about the world. If you look at a piece of work and it moves you due to its beauty, that’s opening your conscious just as much as something political. It’s that bit of magic with the senses. Say you see a painting and it’s just a black piece of canvas to you, some people are really moved by it. That’s the magic, to communicate something more than the superficial, that’s something television or design does, it shows you something that your eye likes and that’s it. Art on the other hand triggers the brain to think something else.
Where do you see the Estudio Nómada project going from here?
Well we’re continuously developing. We’re a young school anyway. I see a few important things. We feel the need to get artists from abroad into the Barcelona art scene, we prefer that they come for six months but sometimes they can come for only three or four months and that’s not always enough to get the feel for a place. So because we’re quite big in the barrio now with two buildings and do a lot of shows, we’re getting somewhere – we’ll be playing a big part in the coming month at City Screen and Primavera Sound [both of which we at Relevant will be reviewing], those are both huge organisations in Barcelona so artists can gain proper exposure from that. One of our other thoughts was to have an international art school. Artists are travellers in two senses. In their brain they are travellers, discovering new things but also due to the nature of their work they travel a lot in the physical sense. So we thought it’d be cool to have an art school with different locations, so from January we’ll be opening a second location in Hong Kong. That’s the trial run, so the scenario will be that artists will come for say six months with us and then they can split it between the two. I’m talking to people in Amsterdam and New York so we’re searching for people to join the idea. The great thing is that it’s people from around the world with different perspectives who want to teach their ideas to students.
Does Hong Kong have the same artistic vibe as Barcelona?
Well Barcelona is awesome. I’d say that together with Berlin it’s the most bohemian city in the world from what I’ve seen. It attracts so many young creative people, it’s a warm bath for your creative desires owing to its roots with great artists such as Dali, Picasso, Gaudi. The street art scene here has really been booming over the last couple of decades as well. Right now though Hong Kong has a really big up and coming art scene. China has a lot of new stuff, different techniques that perhaps in the West we find unconventional and they’re much freer to express that in the 21st century, so China is the perfect country. Other cities on my list are New York, obviously, Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, maybe Rio, though I’ve never been. There’s so many.
If you could choose one artist in the world to give a workshop in your school who would it be?
Wow what a question! I’m a fan of Alan Moore, he’s a comic artist, I’m not really into comics but I got into him through a documentary called the Mindscape of Alan Moore which is awesome. I told you about the magic of art, but this guy tells you what art should be about and it’s in such a funny way, you should really see it. If he came that would be great. Who else? There’s so many! I’d love to have Gilbert and George, or maybe some good graffiti artists. It doesn’t have to be big names really, I’m happy with Kirsten [a current teacher at the studio] as she’s a great person and a great teacher. If an artist isn’t a good communicator I couldn’t use him in the studio in any way. It’s about the thought and ideas they have and helping others out just as much as their artistic talent.
If you feel like coming to Barcelona and applying for the Nómada experience simply go to their website for more information.