013 questions for… Tilburg artist Bart Stillekens: ‘I want to inspire the whole world with my art’

In episode 013 questions for… we ask – you guessed it – thirteen different questions to different tilburgers. This time it is the turn of the talented Tilburg artist Bart Stilleken (B-art). He now has more than 30,000 followers on Instagram, creates luxurious works of art and his work travels the world. Read the interview below.

#1 Can you introduce yourself?

“I am Bart Stillekens, 29 years old and born in Tilburg. I have been working as a full-time (art) artist for 5 years now and I want to inspire the whole world with my works. I try to experiment with as many materials as possible to discover new things and learn something new every day. I want to create a wow factor with my art!”

#2 How did you become an artist?

“I was always very creative before, studying was not for me. I dropped out of school early and then went to work for my father. He had a lightning protection company. After my father sold his shares, I had to think about what I really wanted. My parents played a big role in this. They gave me the opportunity to try things out in the shed in the garden. First I started with music, it was always my thing. I bought a DJ set, but quickly realized that my creativity was greater than that. I have drawn continuously from a young age. My whole room was always full of sketches, clippings and other things. As youngsters we always thought it was cool to spray a bit of graffiti here and there. But why spray on the street when you can also do it on canvas and make people happy with it. I quickly got really nice reactions to the canvases. One of my best friends even wanted to buy one from me. That’s how I really saw the potential in my work, and I’m still grateful to him for that. With that confidence, I continued to work and the first sale was soon a reality.

That’s when the ball really started rolling. I was commissioned to make ten paintings for a client. This was the moment when I could dream bigger. I wanted to have a studio and spend all my time on it. No sooner said than done. A few weeks later I found a beautiful place on Spoorlaan. I began to delve more and more into techniques and materials with the thought: ‘I want to stand out from the rest.’ The wider my knowledge, the more applications I received. Duparc Luxury Cars & Art has also supported me enormously in this. I was allowed to work in the company. That’s how I fell head over heels, because that’s exactly where my target audience came from. At first I started working in larger editions of paintings and sculptures. Now they are increasingly becoming one-of-a-kind pieces. My work can even be seen and bought internationally through art galleries and high-end showrooms.”

#3 What inspires you and why?

“I get inspiration from all sorts of everyday things. On the street, on holiday, on social media or people around me. To give an example: ‘The Money Paintings’. I made these pieces to show how impressive it can be to see so much money together. Cash is disappearing more and more, which I personally find very unfortunate. When I’ve worked hard and I get cash in my hands, it has a lot more emotion for me than a number in my bank account. Plus, who says your money is safe there? It is disappearing more and more from the streets, nowadays people already pay with a mobile phone. I’m trying to bring back the nostalgia of real money. Who knows, maybe we’ll look back in a few years and say: ‘We used to pay with this, a piece of paper’.

#4 What would you pass on to someone who wants to start visual arts?

“Make art that makes you happy, and at the same time try to set yourself apart from the rest. It might sound cliche, but doing what you love and having a passion for what you do is even more important in this job. If it also goes down well in the market, that is a plus.”

#5 How do you notice Tilburg reacting to the art you make?

“I started in Tilburg in my parents’ shed, all my friends and family come from Tilburg and I sold my very first pieces to people from Tilburg. My career started here. So I guess I can say the city is behind me. Of course, it feels very good.”

#6 What are your dreams and goals for B-art?

“My mission is to inspire other people. My dream: my own museum in a beautiful location with art by new talents and established names.”

#7 What are you most proud of?

“I think I want to return to the part of inspiring people. My work can be an addition to someone’s home, public space or gallery. Now that I work more and more internationally, I see how my work is appreciated in all sorts of different places in Europe. It is of course something to be proud of as an artist. For me, the essence lies in inspiring, making something interesting, so that one interpretation can be completely different from another. I now feel more and more that I can actually do it now.”

#8 What are the things you run into as an artist?

“Infinity of ideas. I think that as a creative person you can keep thinking of new ideas endlessly. It’s mainly about making a choice. Which idea do you want to develop, which one don’t you want and which idea do you want to keep in the fridge? There’s a lot involved in making the art and the preparations for it. Often people think that if you buy a blank canvas and make something with it, it’s immediately considered art. That’s not true.”

#9 How did you see Tilburg flourish in the last ten years?

“I have seen for years that we work hard on our city. At first we really only had the center. Now Piushaven, Spoorzone and nature live around the city. It’s great to see that the city is so much more alive.’

#10 What is your favorite museum or work of art? Where are we really going?

“I think that is difficult, because you have so many beautiful places with art. Art is literally everywhere. But if I really have to choose, Art Basel Miami is my favorite. There is so much to see. Everywhere you look, you see art. Think of the Wynwood walls. Now I understand that it is a bit far. If you’re looking for it closer to home, the Moco Museum in Amsterdam is highly recommended. Museum Voorlinden is also top notch, the trick is primarily to look at which exhibitions you like. And in our town, of course, De Pont. We can be seriously proud of that.”

#11 If you could make one drastic change in Tilburg, what would it be?

“Of course, we are already a city of culture, but I think we can invest a lot more in this. More art in the city, letting creativity speak. Think of a mega art gallery or a temporary museum downtown.”

#12 What do you like best about our city?

“The people. And of course my friends and family: that will always be the connecting factor between me and the city. When you come back from the highway after a vacation and you take the Tilburg-Centrum exit, it always feels like coming home. That feeling is the feeling of Tilburg for me.”

#13 What is your favorite work at the moment?

“Yes, one of my latest works (ed. the work you see in the picture.) I always try to play with materials. For this piece I worked with 22 carat gold sheet. The work is 150 by 300 centimeters large. It makes it quite overwhelming and I want to release that feeling. The gold and size make it an eye-catcher and exudes luxury. It’s probably the most expensive job I’ve ever done.”

More information

Do you want more information about B-art? Or are you curious about his works? Be sure to check out his website and follow him on Instagram.

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