21 February 2024



We’ve decided to add a little twist to our series “What’s up Next?”.

We are meeting the 2023-2024 generation of talents in two key moments: at the start of their trajectory – focussing on finding out more about the artists and what they expect from the program, and at the end of their course, discussing the things they picked up on the way.

In June 2023 we had the first talk with multidisciplinary artist Niek Vergeer. Read below how he positioned himself at the start of his Next trajectory!

Niek Vergeer is an independent artist and curator specialised in multidisciplinary projects that shine a light on the undervalued. From a unique neurodiverse perspective, Niek works to create new inclusive spaces and meaningful connections by bringing creative people together that might otherwise never meet.

Early on he made the conscious choice to educate himself with regards to art and culture. His love for drawing got him enrolled at St. Joost Academy where he wanted to experiment with all the things related to this field. Including animation.

Alongside his passion for drawing, Niek also discovered at a young age his affinity with graffiti. Talking about how this passion developed, he says: “When I was 16 I had some markers and stuff and I started writing my name on the tables in classes. This led to creating my own stickers using blank versions I bought at Hema. I slapped them on everything, just everything. And I enjoyed making them and found out there was a community of people expressing themselves in this way. So I joined that community. Things then evolved naturally from stickers to graffiti, markers and spray cans. I soon discovered it was actually easier to directly put your name on something rather than make a sticker and then apply it.”

Initially, Niek refrained from sharing his passion for graffiti during his studies at St. Joost. “I didn’t want to share it with my teachers because if they would have been critical about my works, I am not sure I could have handled it and it might have ended up hurting me or my development.”

“I got diagnosed with autism when I was like 9 years old. I think I have always felt a bit different.” Niek realises he is not unique in this sense, but further elaborates. “My experience was that, in school, or within projects and bigger collaborations, I was often told I don’t fit in very well. And ‘You can better give up on your study!’ and ‘You can better stop with the Academy!’ and ‘You don’t have the potential for this’. I think all these things made me more determined to fight these perceptions while still preserving the things that made me, me. Accepting that I have autism and that I work in a special kind of way. Accepting that not all people like graffiti and street art. But that it was what I liked to do, so I should continue to do it.”

With his graduation project, chances emerged of Niek‘s creating a bridge between his passion for animation and that for graffiti. “I tried to find a way of putting my animation in the street, in an experimental and on-the-edge-of-legality way. It included several augmented reality aspects as well as  ‘hacking’ other people’s phones in order to show my work on their mobiles. The project was about neurodiversity so I could put a lot of myself into that work.”

We asked Niek to tell us a bit about some of his favourite projects. “I am currently working on the MannenMythen project with Tosca. I’m one of the two illustrators on the project, and am working together with her to bring out the graphic novel.

I also did a lot of murals in Europe, which is something I really enjoyed. Some of my own designs but mostly other people’s. And that made me more technical with graffiti and with painting.”

Talking about artists inspiring him, Niek mentions the works of Dabs & Myla, and Formula – a German tattoo artists. He also admires the works of Jasper van Es (and chances are Niek will even get him as a Next mentor): “I think he’s a bit like me. He wants to go further with projects that don’t have to go further. We have a lot of similarities in what we do. The graffiti passion, the interest in curating festivals and exhibitions… The part of bringing people together is also present in his projects.”

Further reflecting on himself as an artist, Niek says: “I love to collaborate with other artists. I love to do just crazy stuff with people that are talented, that are fun to work with and that are open to experiment together.”

On the subject on interactions with other Next talents, Niek says: “I am also a curator for art shows and I already invited a few Nexters to showcase their works there. I think everyone brings their own special talent in the Next project. And if I see potential in somebody, that makes me want to work together”.

However, this interest in collaborations proves sometimes also challenging. “I am working a lot with other people. But sometimes I forget I also like to work on my own things. And to explore what it is that I can do on my own. So what I would like to find out throughout my Next trajectory is how I can mix working together with other people but, in the same time, gaining more confidence in the work I do individually.

I would also love to learn how to strengthen my online presence. I want to understand better how to do social media and also present my work through my own website.

Last, but not least, I want, through my work,  to change a lot of things in the industry regarding mental health, inequity and representation.”

Regarding the expectations from the program, Niek mentions: “Even though I know a lot of people that have followed this program, I didn’t know so much about how it actually works. They were all saying what a great experience it was but I could not really pinpoint why. I still don’t know what is going to happen actually!” he laughs. We‘ll just have to wait and see what the interview at the end of his trajectory will reveal!


More about this artist