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

Arguably, art is just a series of forms working together to create an image. This can be said for a variety of practices including sculpture and painting. Stripping them down to their most basic form, these pieces are just a culmination of shapes that build an image. The line is at the centre of this, even the body is a series of them. Everything, from architecture to the everyday object, can be described this way. The line is at the heart of everything.


[Permission to use granted from the artist]

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 almost move on the page. The skillful way he produces portraits without removing his tool from the canvas, forming abstract figures through drawing and sculpting, is unique.  Through a technique that can so easily produce mistake after mistake, Kiené’s creations are beautiful.  Despite working in a field which, in some respect, idolises perfection he proves with every piece that mistakes are breath-taking and even necessary in 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 don’t describe yourself as an artist but more of a creator.  What do you feel the difference is?

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 f*ck ups. And if I think I’ve f*cked 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?  It seems there’s more room for error with your technique.

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

Music inspires you.  How does it influence your work and do you have any other 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 your work, and its overall effect, when working 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 attracted you to portraiture?

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 or 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 from someone with an explanation of what my portraits do to them, it’s 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 to break from traditional art styles, 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 idea that we should embrace our mistakes is something we can apply to all aspects of life.  Sometimes, the direction we find ourselves heading in is better than the one we had mapped out.  Art, much like life, is a journey of discovery.  Taking risks, finding inspiration from all that surrounds us, and continuously striving to grow is beautiful.


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






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