YB Talks: Nuno Viegas

17-04-2020 Design, Interview

Voor onze nieuwe serie interviews genaamd YB Talks gaan we in gesprek met getalenteerde creatieven, muzikanten en ondernemers die naar ons idee het verschil maken. Talent waarvan de wereld het bestaan moet weten, met verhalen waarvan we hopen dat ze jullie inspireren. Tijdens dit tweede interview van de serie spraken we met ontwerper, schilder, illustrator en multitalent Nuno Viegas. We vroegen Nunov over zijn werk, inspiratie en doelen en wat we de komende tijd van hem kunnen verwachten.

Interview door Marlèna Kamtsis. Foto’s door Floor Besuijen.

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Nuno Viegas, I’ve been living in Rotterdam for more than five Years, but I recently returned to Quartiara, Portugal. That’s where I’m originally from.

Okay, so you’ve been living in Rotterdam for five years, do you speak any Dutch?

I don’t speak Dutch very well, so we have to do this interview in English haha. I’ve been a bit lazy about it. Because I’ve been working at a hostel and my work as an artist; I didn’t deal that much with Dutch people. And with the ones I did, it was always within the international scene so we always spoke English. And also, pretty much everyone speaks English in The Netherlands, which is good and I appreciate that a lot!

How did you end up in Rotterdam?

Actually Rotterdam wasn’t my first choice, it happend kind of by accident. I was about twenty years old when I visited Holland for the first time in my life. I have a cousin who still lives in Tilburg, she’s Dutch. She’s the daughter of my uncle, who lives in Portugal and my aunt is Dutch. They’re not together anymore, obviously. But yeah, my cousin is born and raised in Tilburg and I came to visit her once. I really liked the vibe here and I almost stayed for two weeks.

Back in Portugal I was with my girlfriend at the time and she wanted to do a master study abroad. She applied to Norway, Denmark, The Hague and a lot of other places. Then I said to her: “let’s just leave Portugal, we’re gonna look for houses in The Hague. If you get accepted there, we’ll stay there. If you get accepted somewhere else, we just move”.

The problem was: we couldn’t find a house in The Hague and then we found one in Rotterdam. If I look at it now I’m like: how the hell did I get a house in Rotterdam, it’s super hard haha. Thankfully I ended up here, because it changed my life. We just arrived here without knowing what was gonna happen, but it turned out well.

So, you’re an artist. Could you tell us more about the art you make?

Nowadays I paint mainly, canvas and murals. Concerning the style or category as a painter, I don’t really know where to put myself to be honest, but maybe somewhere in-between hyper-realism and surrealism. And I’m quite minimalistic with my paintings as well. They’re always very clean and simple. There’s not like a lot of vibrancy, a lot of color. It’s just always quite simple.

How do you come up with the subject that you’re painting?

It’s always about graffiti, so all my paintings, even though it’s not graffiti, talk about graffiti. That’s where I get my inspiration from and all my drive comes from the graffiti. I just visualise elements that belong there and bring them into paintings. And I try to contrast the nasty visuals, or the more aggressive visuals that you get from graffiti and I try to contrast them with my super clean paintings. It’s a way to show what graffiti is about and putting it on a pedestal.

Looking around I see a lot of hands in your artwork..

These are the only paintings in the house right now. But gloves, the latex gloves.. There are artists that are known for their specific characters. These are my characters, I have like three of them. The gloves, the shirt mask and the paper plane. So these are the three main ones. Recently I came up with the paper crown. I try to play with my paintings, but at the same time stay recognisable for people with some specific characters.

So if I asked you to pick something you were most proud of, what would that be?

This year I did a collaboration in Berlin with Herakut. Herakut is an artist duo, it’s Era and Hakut. They’re both from Germany. Akut comes from a crew which is called Maclaim. When I started painting, a few years later, I found out about their work and they were like a super big inspiration and they became my heroes straight away. After all those years I’m painting like 40 meter tall walls with them, it was a great moment, I am super happy about that.

Are you gonna continue that in Portugal, with the same kind of artists you’ve been working with in Holland?

Yeah, I hope my network stays growing and that I can still enjoy this life for many, many years. Fingers crossed.

I'm crossing them as well. What has been your hardest lesson, the one that made you into the person you are today?

I don’t know, I’ve been blessed with quite a good life. To be honest, there’s nothing I would regret. There’s some mad stuff that I’ve been through, but nothing that I’ve done, I regret at this moment. But of course there’s always stuff I wish that was different, for example the moments that I was really down in my life, was the period I struggled with anxiety. Those were quite some dark times, but at the same time I learned a lot about myself. For me it was like really touching the bottom, so that you could jump up afterwards. And yeah, if I have to mention a period in my life which wasn’t cool, but I grew from it, that would be it. That was like, seven years ago, it was quite tough.

Thank you for being so open and honest with us. Did you use that period to express your art?

Well, I think a lot about that period and making a painting about it. But at the moment I mainly focus on graffiti. But every work I make reflects some of that period. 

In that moment when you were down, were you already painting back then?

At that moment I became an artist in Holland, so before this, well, not really. I studied art for five years and ended up with a Master degree. But at that time I wasn’t really painting, which I do a lot more right now. Back then I was mainly doing installation art, I was working a lot with photography and video. Back then I just thought I couldn’t paint. The only connection with painting was painting letters as a graffiti writer. But yeah, only after I came here and had this internship with a local artist, Timon de Laat. Shit started getting real from that moment on!

What do you think about the creative climate among young artists in Rotterdam?

There are so many artists out there, it’s crazy. Nowadays I go on Instagram and find so many talented but underrated artists. There are so many young creatives who haven’t gotten their chance to blow up yet. The problem is: it’s just not always fair the way things go. It’s basically just about who you know. If you know the right people, you cool. If you don’t know the right people, you could be the best artist in the world and you always stay in the gutter. It’s messed up and I’m just happy I got my shot. I’m trying to make the most of it and hopefully one day I’ll be able to open some doors to others to pay forward. But yeah, it’s not always fair how things work.

The world can be cruel sometimes..

Well, then again it’s a first world problem of course: making a living out of art, it’s a luxury. Having nothing to really be concerned about and making a living out of it is pure luxury. I consider myself super blessed for that.

Because at the moment you make a living out of making art?


What is your next big step?

That’s difficult, things pop up all the time. We can be talking here right now and I can get a message like: “yo, do you wanna do this or that”. But I have some nice exhibitions lined up for next year. Next year I’ll do two shows in the States which will be super nice. Both with nice line-ups. One is a solo show, in a gallery I share with a guy who’s actually from Holland as well. He even lived in Rotterdam for a while. His name is Kyle Smith and he’s now living in New York. We’re going to share the gallery together, so that’s gonna be a nice project.

Besides that, for me walls is always a big challenge. To do a nice mural and visit another country and do something different, that’s alway a goal. I also have some ideas to develop for next year. It’s not about painting, but about sculpture and going back to installation again. But yeah, then again, things can change!

So if there would be a country where you could do a mural, is there one in particular that’s on top of your list?

If people would tell me: “you can only do one more event or festival”, I would do Onohu in Tahiti. Tahiti is like the place on earth I wanna go to the most, Teahupoo to be specific. I was raised by the sea and I used to surf and there they have the most amazing waves in the world. It’s a wonder of nature which I would like to witness in person.

And now you're leaving Rotterdam, what would you tell people about your favourite spots in the city?

Witte de With for me is a special place. I worked at King Kong for almost four years and yeah I still go there every day. The monkeys are my family, in a way. I think that’s the spot in Rotterdam that I’m the most attached to.

Cool. So let’s talk music. What’s your favourite record at the moment?

At the moment? I listen mainly to hiphop; Portuguese and American. I used to listen a lot to French rap as well, but I prefer the oldschool stuff. I also listen a lot to the folks from back home, Quartiara in Portugal, my hometown. I even used to rap when I was younger. Now I listen to a lot of my friends who are making music back home.  For me music is about feeling it and I can totally relate to what they’re talking about, because it’s local in a way. I can visualise all their words, I can put it into images in my mind, because I know the place and I know them. Actually there’s a recent album, I think it’s from last year. From a Portuguese rapper that I’ve been playing a lot. His name is Phoenix RDC.

Then I listen a lot to American rap, like Sean Price, Wu-Tang, Redman. I’m still finding out oldschool albums and oldschool MC’s that never made it super big, but the internet made it so much easier to dig for new music.