by Alison Shea
The Danish artist Rasmus Nilausen holds a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona and an MA in Fine Arts from the Chelsea College of Art and Design from the University of the Arts London. He has spent almost half of his life in Barcelona, where he moved to after high school and where his family is situated now. Rasmus has been a Van Eyck participant since June 2017. He had heard about the institution several years before, when researching what other artists had been doing, and the Van Eyck kept popping up in people’s biographies. Thus he decided that he wanted to do such a residency, too.
Rasmus paints with oil on canvas. Many of his works’ subjects are still lifes and they often have ironic references. They invite interpretation, as Rasmus enjoys telling stories through his work. While he cannot recall the exact moment in which he knew that he was going to be an artist, he does vividly remember his first approaches to art. In the late 80’s his parents gave him a book about graffiti and Rasmus copied what was in it – first in his sketchbook, then onto his bedroom wall. After creating more art with spray paint he realized that he would prefer to spend more time on work that he could hold on to. At the age of nineteen he therefore began to paint on canvas. In the beginning his paintings were quite comic-like, but in Barcelona Rasmus developed an obsession for the old masters’ realist technique. The realist technique requires strict precision and can invoke perfectionism in the artist. Later however, he stopped worrying as much about perfectionism and instead embraced personal traits.
Rasmus’s studio at the Van Eyck is full of different-sized paintings, the canvases leaning against the walls. On the back wall of his studio he painted the tiles of his kitchen in Barcelona. The pattern of the 70s ceramic design above his sink make it look like a kitchenette at first glance. Rasmus points out that due to the different routine, this studio is much tidier than the one in Barcelona. The general program at the Van Eyck consists of lectures, debates and presentations, as well as studio visits from advisors and guests. At some point Rasmus figured out that too many paintings in his studio would be too overwhelming for people who did not know him. Therefore, while painting several works at the same time, he circulates which ones are on display in his studio. Usually he starts with an intuition, applies color and sees where it leads him. Once a painting is finished it is put somewhere else. Sometimes he takes one out again to see if he still likes it. Rasmus considers it necessary to evaluate his own work from a certain distance. This is also the reason why he has an agreement with his gallerist to never show works that are less than three or four months old. Occasionally, when Rasmus feels that a painting does not work, he paints over it. For example there is a little white painting with a red bird on it in his studio. He had started it with his daughter in the summer and later painted over it, adding the image of the bird which he copied from a drawing by his daughter.
Many of the paintings in Rasmus’s studio in some way visualize written and spoken language. His interest in spoken language can be related to his personal life. Rasmus speaks Danish to his children, Catalan to their mother, Spanish when working in Barcelona and predominantly English at the Van Eyck. Using four different languages made him think about personality being perceived differently depending on the language spoken. He applies this thought to painting in terms of different styles. He says: “If I want to I can do something really realistic, or something that plays with the idea of reality, or I can do something that looks like a comic, or I can copy my daughter’s drawing. And then when it all comes together in my studio, that’s when the analysis comes in.” According to Rasmus, painting is situated between spoken and written language. When writing, one uses a slower medium of expression, taking more time to think about what to put on paper. Speaking is a faster medium of expression. People often take less time to make up their mind about what to express. However, the process of painting is more fluid. It can shift between being as fast as talking and as slow as writing.
Rasmus has a show coming up on the 12th of May in Amsterdam, which everyone is welcome to attend. The event is going to take place in the new project space Plǝt-. Plǝt- is a living room in Amsterdam that hosts art shows with international painters who have never before shown their work in Amsterdam. It is definitely worth a visit as it will be interesting to see Rasmus expressing his concept in the rather unusual setting of a living room.
Pictures by Alessandro Sirocchi