10 Minutes With Nils Karlson
Gain an insight into the creative mind of our artist, Nils Karlson in his exclusive Q&A. Have a question you want to ask? Send it to [email protected]
Nils Karlson is a German artist now residing in Bochum. Nils art combines his love of vast oceans along with his knowledge on the concept of Bardo. We have caught up with Nils to give you a 10 minute insite into his artworks and the creative process behind them.
Tell me about your art?
That's quite a difficult task, because my art tells a lot about me. And it does so without words – so as I have not become a writer, my visual creations will tell you all about themselves and me simultaneously.
What are common or characteristic themes depicted in your work?
I tend to see my work as a series of self-portraits, in which I try to communicate a place or state of mind I seek. Most of it is predicated upon the realm of silence: calm, quiet, placidity. It is an ongoing process, a flow which comes and goes just like the tides. Sometimes I find quiet in places I have never imagined before – and sometimes a place which sounded so perfect fails to provide the soothing feel of quietness.
Do you think style is important?
There's something in the word „style“ I find repulsive – just like „scene“. It's a dead end, a comfortably numb place justifying the comfort of constriction. An easy excuse not not evolve and resign to the ordinary. It's just a term. What I do think is crucially important is personality. Depth. A quest, a yearning, and even if it is such a cliché, a struggle. It is important to have a story, and a way to communicate all this: A language. Hence my personal prefererance of the term „language“ over „style“. A language to match the inherent story, which lifts it up, brings it down, keeps it going until it has become to dense it can be put into something physical, no matter if it is a photographic print, written words, or particle displacement we perceive as sound. A language which transcends the story into the outside world.
Did you find your language or did it find you? And how long did it take you to develop your language?
Both. To what percentage, no one can say. Nature and nurture – there is no excluding „or“. An ongoing process, feeding on itself, intertwined and complex. I hope to be learning until the day my body becomes the ocean.
What about the creative process excites you the most?
Honestly, excitement is the last I'm looking for – so I want to talk about what is calming me the most. Most of it is – what a surprise – to search and scout quiet places. Going outside, looking for a place in the outside world which connects with my inside world on a profound and heling level. Getting away from the human-made noise floor, which too often fills my head to an extend where it becomes overwhelmingly painful.
What else interests you?
This might seems contradictory, but I've been a drummer for a much longer time than a photographic artist – and my taste in music is mostly rather noisy and abrasive, from instrumental post rock over globalisation-critical grindcore to anarchist black metal. Music is a great way of building walls to protect myself from the uncontrolled auditive onslaught.
On the quiet side, I just love dogs. Also cats, and many other animals – but the dogs have a special place in my heart. And in our bed. And on the sofa. I also have a thing for coffee and cake, but that's a different story.
What do you do when you get stuck?
First of all, I panic, but don't panic. Getting stuck is a part of the process, and once I have accepted this, it lost its terror. One way is to shrug shoulders, and do something else. Try something new, play, experiment. Getting out of the muck takes time, and so I try to take time – there's no use in hurrying it. And as said before – play. Play is such a powerful process, unbiased on the result, and...fun. Never forget the fun part in all of this. Once it becomes a mere duty, just stop, take a step out of context and play. Recently I have been playing with cyanotypes a lot.
Do you critique your own work? How?
All the time, and I try to be ruthless. Sometimes we all have to push our favorite single picture over the cliff, just because it does not fit into a series. This might be painful at first, but worth the agonising process of reviewing one's own works. The more it hurts, the closer we get to the core of the series – maybe even leading to the decision to drop an entire series and starting new, probably even based on the single picture we wanted to exclude. Also, it is worth sharing ideas, experiments, progress, failures with a few people we trust and we know they know us.