Niels Sinke, currently graduating from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, supports his illustration with a certain intelligence. If his drawings aren’t supported by hours of reading there’ll always be a whole philosophy explaining how the viewer should consume the images. Niels is a thinker, and a creative.
‘’By using simple lines and shading you can make everything you want,’’ Niels tells me in a café in Utrecht. We’ve sat across a long, wooden table in the middle of the café. It’s morning, yet the room feels reasonably busy. Niels continues: ‘’However, as an illustrator you always have some restrictions, but I’m still trying to give my work its own identity.”
He wants his drawings to feel fluid. ”My illustrations tend to adopt some cartoonish features, which I think adds to the fluency of my work.’’ The technique isn’t the only way Niels Sinke distinguishes his work from others. ‘’I make a lot of technology related illustrations, and I’ll remember myself to circumvent the genre’s frameworks. By constantly looking for new structures and textures to display something I hope to keep myself out of these frameworks.’’
You mention that you love technology and cyberspace. Why so?
‘’Technology is always developing. There are still loads of new things to be discovered, as it’s constantly moving forward. When talking about the internet, cyberspace, we discuss the human mind. The internet is made up of human input, which makes it a kind of society. On the other side the internet is incredibly personal. Cyberspace is accessible to almost everyone. What we do on the internet is entirely up to us. We can either hide there, or expose ourselves. It’s simply interesting.’’
You’re currently graduating. Can you describe your graduation project?
‘’I’m currently working on my own version of Faust’s classic tale. This is the historical story of a man, Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in return for knowledge. He thought it would make him happy, which it eventually didn’t. Everywhere the devil goes, corruption follows.
My version of the story replaces magic and the devil with technology and artificial intelligence. Faust is a thriving scientist, who’s made an A.I. system assisting him in his practices. Both of them have wishes: Faust’s still not happy with the amount of knowledge he controls, and Mephistopheles [the A.I. system] wants to experience and see the world.
Faust and Mephistopheles decide to make a lens, which allows the computer system to experience the world. The lens’s other function is to grant Faust to see several layers of reality. Imagine looking at an object and knowing everything about it: the material, the size, where it was made. Faust can now analyse both objects and even living beings. Like you might expect this ultimate form of knowledge will make Faust miserable in the end. Faust will slowly turn into data. He disappears and all that’s left is his shadow, his heartbeat and his footsteps.
This concept will eventually turn into a kind of graphic novel. The level of complexity Faust experiences will be displayed by an exponential growth in abstractions. You could say that Faust is part of a horrible technological trip. The question is whether Faust can still distinguish his own human instincts and technological influence of the lens.’’
Your Instagram feed showed something called Cuneiforms. What is it?
‘’Cuneiforms relate to the cuneiform scripts, which are nail-headed characters. I absolutely love reading non-fiction books, and reading multiple books on the same topic. Recently I’ve been reading about psychology and dreams. While reading about dreams, and especially night-terrors, there’s this spooky atmosphere. I wanted to recreate that atmosphere in the Cuneiforms series, something like a collective fear for the unknown.
It was important to me that I didn’t really know what I wanted to draw, and just mess around with shapes. I do enjoy drawing tech-related objects, but sometimes I need to get out there and try something else. When I draw tech I’m not restricted at all, but Cuneiforms did have some restrictions. It’s set in this ancient universe, which only consists of traditional materials, like wood and stone.’’
You’ve recently worked with Deniz Yilmaz who published some articles about BlockChain on Medium. How did you experience making illustrations for those articles?
‘’That was the first time I felt a certain pressure when illustrating. Deniz wanted to publish an article each week, for a duration of six weeks, so I had to make an illustration each week. This forced me to make fast decisions. Arts students get a whole year to finish their graduation project. There’s room for trying new methods and visuals, but these illustrations had to be finished within a week. It was a healthy amount of pressure though. I tried finishing each drawing within two days.
BlockChain tech is delightfully abstract, and it’s fun to take that concept and make something recognizable out of it. Most people haven’t got a clue what to imagine when you mention BlockChain, so I wanted to use elements everyone knows to make a difficult subject more approachable. The first article discussed how BlockChain could support an electrical car sharing service, so I made BlockChain physical by drawing a car. Another article featured a concept in which a group of people owned a house by implementing BlockChain. This illustration isn’t as straightforward, but it still features elements known to all, such as an abacus and, well, blocks.’’
In part 4 of the BlockChain article series, animations started appearing. Why did you make that decision?
‘’I made those illustrations for Deniz, but also for myself. I didn’t get payed, and that was fine. However, I do believe that not getting payed granted me some extent of creative freedom. After finishing the first three articles, I decided to add animations. I wanted to see if I could pull of making an animation within a week’s time. It did take a reasonable amount of time, but I think it was worth it. I developed new techniques and ways to create animations more quickly. The key is to simplify them, without simplifying the image.’’