Art as a beautiful mistake: An Interview with Niels Kiené (Salventius)

Arguably, art is just a series of forms and shapes working together to create an image. This can be said for a variety of practices from sculpture, to painting and video art. Stripping them down to their most basic form, these pieces are a culmination of the former that construct images. The ‘line’ is at the centre of this; the body itself is a visual series of angles and lines. Everything can be described in this way, such as architecture and everyday-day objects. The ‘line’ is simply at the heart of everything.


Niels Kiené, also known as Salventius, is a Dutch artist who creates one-line portraits using mediums including light, photography, tattoo and sculpture. Having found Kiené’s work whilst scrolling through Instagram, I instantly fell in love. The minimalism of his pieces stood out to me; he uses a simple technique to create stunning images that breathe on the page. The way he produces portraits without removing his tool from the canvas is something of skill, and the abstracted images formed from this way of drawing and sculpting are unique.  Through a technique that can so easily produce mistake after mistake, Kiené constructs the beautiful.  In a practise which in some respects idealises perfection, he proves with every piece that mistakes themselves are breath-taking, and even necessary within art.


Could you say a little about yourself for those who may not be familiar with your art?

I create one-line drawings and light portrait paintings.
You wouldn’t describe yourself as an artist but more of a creator.  What do you feel the differences between these are?

I try to avoid seeing myself as an artist. I think an artist has reached some sort of status and this could take away my eagerness to move forward.
You work using continuous lines.  What has this technique allowed you to achieve that working in other ways hasn’t, and are there any difficulties with it?

Continuous one-line drawings work for me the best because they don’t allow me to make fuck ups. And if I think I’ve fucked it up I keep continuing. The final result is sometimes so much more beautiful when it has these human errors included.
What kind of relationship do you have with ‘control’ when making your pieces.  It may appear there’s more room for error when you create without lifting your tool off the page.

It is the error that I love the most. One world. One try. One line.

You take inspiration from music which is not so obviously associated with portraiture.  In what ways do you find it influences your work? Do you have any other predominant sources of inspiration?

Music to me triggers emotions, and those emotions I like to portray in the characters I draw. Also, I love to be guided by the rhythm. Events can also be the trigger for me to start drawing. A strong emotion or event is what I like to produce into a portrait. The portraits I make are also new to me, it is like meeting someone that you have never met before.
What are the differences and similarities you find in you work, and its overall effect, when working in 2D compared to 3D?

2D is more spontaneous for me. 3D is a sort of reproduction of a 2D portrait. I like the extra dimension because it allows me to see a different path for my portraits. I am working on a cabinet made out of a 3D one-line drawing.
What is it that attracted you to creating portraits?

I don’t know. I have this need to create them. I am interested in people, all people. And I love to meet new personalities so in a way I create my own social events.
How do you feel once you have finished a piece?

It’s kind of addicting. A finished portrait is so nice to meet, and the kick to stop at the right time and moment.

Is there any meaning of feeling you try to evoke through your pieces?

I am not creating portraits to tell a story. I do hope they start a story in the people who see them and like them. I’ll sometimes receive a message of someone with an explanation of what my portraits do to them, such a beautiful compliment.

What advice would you give to people who’d like to get into the art field?

Some say art should be pain. But I think it should be fun. So always find the fun and keep doing it…
What are your tips for anyone struggling with breaking out of traditional styles of art, or to anyone just wanting to try something new?

Allow yourself to make mistakes. Mistakes are gifts! And sometimes literally try to look at (or create) your work from a different angle.

The belief that errors are a necessity and that they should be embraced, is something we can apply to all aspects of life.  Sometimes the destination we find ourselves in, is better than the one we initially thought we were heading towards.  Art, much like living, is a journey of discovery.  Taking risks, finding inspiration from all that surrounds us, and continuously striving to grow is what breeds the beautiful.


Find Niels Kiené (Salventius) on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and on his website!

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