Curated Conversations: Rik Oostenbroek

SuperRare curator Mika Bar On Nesher interviews Rik Oostenbroek on his practice and the changing landscape of the digital art movement.

Apr 6, 2023 Art / Artist Conversations

11 months ago

Rik Oostenbroek is self-taught Dutch freelance artist, designer and art director based in The Netherlands. For over 17 years, Rik worked with some of the world’s biggest brands before becoming a full-time digital artist. A pioneer in the digital abstraction movement, his work has a distinct formalist style that’s garnered a loyal following amongst collectors and artists alike. Rik’s newest artwork, Duality, dropped on SuperRare today.

1. How do you feel the perception of digital art has changed in the last 2 years? 

It’s been a blessing to even be part of this somehow. Being a digital artist, the only way to make a living was by being a tool for others. You executed ideas that were mostly initiated by others.

I still remember myself emailing newspapers and talk-shows about digital art and why it’s so cool. No one ever even responded to me. It almost feels that we’re finally a sort of legit art-form. We can be confident; we can be proud. At least I am. Where it used to be a “weird” thing to do and not even explainable at random gatherings or birthday parties I had, I found people lately even understanding it. The one response I always get on saying I’m a digital artist is: “So you do NFTs?

Haha. NO. I AM CREATING DIGITALLY and also do NFT’s. But it shows the awareness is growing and while I still don’t think much digital art gets collected by traditional art collectors, I feel in the near future that will surely happen. Back in the days I would just say I’m a graphic designer so people won’t start to ask complex questions or I [would] have to overly explain myself all the time.

2. As a creative who previously worked in the commercial world, do you see the digital art movement as a liberator for artists? 

It shifted everything for many of us, I think. To me the biggest change is more that I can think like an artist, so it unlocks a different body of work and a sort of creative freedom I barely found the time for. The thinking changed a lot and I feel liberated from overly curating what I was posting and sharing.  In essence, it sort of brought me back to the attitude and thinking I had when started out. Just create. Have fun. Do whatever, but evolve and learn and find your true self in your art.

To me, however, I still work with clients. Why? Because I like the challenge from time to time and how my brand/work could be spread out in the physical world as well, and I feel it’s healthy to have a tunnel vision on one specific thing, like I had suffered from (almost) being full-time clients the past 7 years. The biggest shift is that I say NO to 90% of the emails I get in though. I only take on the fun things or the ones with clients I’ve built a relationship with.

But the cool thing is that they sometimes come up with ideas or collaborations I’d never thought about before. So having a little bit of client work on the side beside my personal explorations was really the sweet spot to me.

3. You have created a visual language of your own; what do you draw inspiration from in your daily life?

It all started as an expression while going through terrible depressions at a very young age. From that moment on my art became my emotional outlet. This might sound far-fetched, but I started to really look at life events or things in life that triggered me and brought these alive in my own body of work. Realizing that IF I see something I find pretty, that I had an emotional reaction in real life. Something happened to me. Those are the moments and things I try to apply to my body of work. Could be as simple as a colorway of a piece of fashion, a gradient of a sky or a texture on a tree bark. Those events still happen to me on a daily basis and I figured the things I find beautiful form my taste in a way. My taste makes me unique. My taste became my body of work, and whilst I mainly looked at other artists and what they did when I started out, I only tend to look at myself now.

4. Who are some of your favorite artists in the space currently? 

There are tons I look up to, but mostly to the ones that created a genre on their own. Some people that don’t lean on trends or successful things in the past. To name some off the top of my head ( yes there are way more ) I really like the work of Reuben Wu, Joe Pease, Jake Fried and Deekay for instance. To even call Reuben a friend these days is crazy while I’ve probably been one of his biggest Instagram groupies before NFTs were a thing haha.

Why? Because they really found their niche and while people try to replicate it, it’s not doable. It shows hours, days, years , months of conviction to get to that point. So, it really respects their care. They are consistent and constantly evolving and pushing within their own little world. Can totally admire that.

Besides that I’ve always been a James Jean fan myself, though.

5. What is your advice for artists starting out in the NFT space? What are some strategies you’re seeing for releasing 1/1?

I would advise literally everyone to understand the fact that you start from 0. Try to understand what the technology behind NFTs is about. Not just the “hey, I can throw something online and make money” approach. You need to believe in the entire thing we’re building here. Not just show up, sell, leave. Just educate yourself first before making steps. That’s how I did it before minting my genesis to Superrare. I think I took two months to figure out how crypto works. What minting was. All those tiny things. 

Besides that, I feel it’s really important to be your own head curator. What do you mint and what makes this piece of work more special compared to the piece you created a day before?

I might be a slow minter myself, but I’d like to only release those very very very special moments as a 1/1. So, holding a 1/1 of mine is something special to the collector as well.

But that’s my POV since I already had 17 years of art pieces laying around, and I had to be very picky. In the end they should just join the space and have fun here. See what this is about and experience it themselves.

6. Can you tell us of any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re excited about?

I am about to have a clear schedule with not much going on, which I prefer so I can focus on my own explorations. Mainly focusing on ways to get my digital work into the physical form of sculptures. On techniques like screen-printing too.

Somehow bridge the digital and physical in a way that works. But I noticed the process is bumpy since other challenges show during the process. I also have some fun client enquiries laying around, but I’m not 100% sure if I want to take any of these yet. The next weeks will tell, but instead of FOMO’ing into everything I really pick what the gut says, like this drop with SuperRare

7. What was the process like for making this piece? 

Oh wow. First of all, becoming a father was the scariest life event I ever had to face. Especially the fear if I could ever find my balance. If I had the time to create still. If it would destroy the Rik I was known for. The 3D base was made a month after our kid was born, so actually already 25 months ago. For a couple years I clearly had 2 tracks within my body of work. There was 3D work (Silent Wave, Levitae, Mirage) and 2D work (self). Where the commercial work was mainly focusing on the 3D aspect, I still maintained my 2D/drawing track on the side. 

Because both were very me, I’ve been trying to bring both tracks together for over years. I think my first tests were in 2018. This debate between 2 forces that were both new reflect themselves in the piece Duality. This piece of work is a dialogue between the new me and old me. 

It is 2D vs. 3D. It’s the Rik that was “work hard play hard” vs. the Rik that had to be a grown up. But how to blend these versions of me together and make things work. Like fuck. How on earth could I manage this? 

It took some time to get the hang of this weird change of perspectives in life, actually almost 2 years. In the end I worked on it in phases but every time I thought it was finished, I let it rest and picked it up again. Why? No clue. It was a meditative process for me to draw and to especially keep drawing and expressing myself on this canvas. The struggles of being a grown-up all the sudden and everything that comes with that.

In the end it became by far my most detailed work of art ever. Everything crafted by me in both of my signature mediums. This is actually only the third 1/1 that was created during the last 2.5 years.

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Mika Bar On Nesher

Mika is a writer and filmmaker based in NYC. They are a Curator at SuperRare @superraremika  

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