Man’s Madness and the Contemporary City

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Architect, Collage, Monochromatic, Photo-Manipulation

Man’s Madness and the Contemporary City

Nest VanDenken

Untitled landscapes, started in 2015, is a running project to collect 225 (maybe more) little square drawings: every drawing is a sort of framed view of imaginary skylines of possible cities, unreal geometric landscapes and ambiguous scenery. Works are a tricky mix of patterns and grids, cutting- edges shapes and soft lines, shadows and marked edges, hatches and lines, different layers of overlying nets, totally black and white, trying to represent the contrasts and complexity of the faceted contemporary city. The idea is that the project will finish when the last view will be drawn. Every drawing is approximately 13 cm x 13 cm large. Drawings will be collected in nine 50cm x 50cm framed boards to compose a great 3×3 squared grid (150cm side). Design is very spontaneous, fluently and quite fast, without any correction. Design is almost exclusively freehand especially for hatches. Different thicknesses black ink pens are used to draw and to mark the lines.


 Density Insanity 

Interview for Density Insanity 

How would a colourful palette help in reinforcing this level of insanity and density which maybe the monochromatic doesn’t totally fulfil?

The decision to draw only in black and white, for me, it is important for a lot of reasons, and maybe comes from the fact that I am a photographer too. First, black and white, for me, cancels and prevents the timing of objects and situations. Everything seems suspended in an indefinite time does not exist. The colours, in this, are too linked to current and fashionable. Second, the black and white often brings me back memories of old urban scenarios when the city, for a lot of reasons, suffered much, especially for poverty or wars. I would like my images cause discomfort and estrangement in the viewer, so I believe draw only black and white is very helpful. Third, graphically, I think it is easier to manage the different images in black and white to get to a better result in a reasonable time. But, at the end, I’m interested in colors anyway. What I’m trying to put in some drawings is a fluorescent color, acid and unnatural to emphasize even more the feeling of discomfort that comes out of living in certain dramatic places.


What defines the material you choose to archive and then use? Where do the images come from? (internet magazine etc)

The project wants to show the man’s madness in its no-limits process of development and densification of the contemporary city. To describe it, one of the best tools is the irony that helps me to push myself a little bit more than the reality (even if sometimes you can’t reach the no sense of reality). Anyway, with a good stock of irony (dancers, wild beast and many more), I try to imagine places where is no sense to build or to live. I thinking to decommissioned nuclear power plants, the dry docks of ships, port cranes, towers scattered in the sea, the ships sunk, the former military fortress, the giant oil tankers, the coldest or warmest places, to all those places where I would not live even in a nightmare. Then I do a web search for free images to find the better and suitable for the drawing I want to do. It’s amazing how many extraordinary places there are in the world to fix insane architectures. It’s always difficult to stop the search because new places call new situations. Anyway, generally only small part of the found image is used. Always I prefer to change the sky to make much more dramatic the drawing and to resize the image depending on the final format I want to reach. I developed some textures made with many different facades from high density buildings all over the world. The final drawing is made by creating a three-dimensional model on which the textures are applied, other times, however, the two- dimensional textures are directly composed in the image.

How does the neat framing of these chaotic images stand with the thesis?

All the images are digital, but they have been composed and technically managed to be printed in high quality. For this reason, I wanted to see, very quickly, what role could have the frame and what about the dialogue with its content. I think the images come to life only if they manage to get out of the monitor to be hung on a wall. The frame and the mat are two things that help to get out of the logic of the digital image. This misunderstanding comes from the digital photography that pushes us not to print anything and always look to monitor the result of the photographer work. Instead, I believe that the quality of the many digital images need to become real and touchable through the press, no matter whether it is a drawing or photograph.




Many images feature a grid, what does this represent for you and in relation to this super density?

It’s curious how, in English, “ruler” means who gives everybody regulations and the tool to draw grids, at the same time. Grid means planning and planning means power. The grids represent the drive force of planning the city by the ruler. The grids on the background are the planning memories that the city doesn’t care or tries to push away. Planning wrecks and skeletons of rules abandoned by the city that try to grow in ways, sometimes unpredictable and out of the pre-packaged logic.



Nest VanDenken is a Dutch artist now based in Milan, focused on freehand drawings, digital manipulation and photography. Like all the scenery represented in his works, he doesn’t exist yet.


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