Nina Knaack speaks to members of the Bloom collective, a community of artists propelling each other in web3 and helping define the fast-changing world of cryptoart.
It all started with a Discord group. Danish artist Kristian Levin had entered the NFT scene in late 2020 and was looking to meet like-minded artists in the new territory that he found himself in. Kristian, who goes by his pseudonym noCreative, is known for his striking 3D and digital cloth work, set in classical surroundings. He christened the Discord group ‘Home’, a place where they could seek advice and constructive feedback, a place where artists could feel at home in a brave new world.
Alongside early members Stephan Duquesnoy and Icki, noCreative organised Twitter Spaces for the collective to discuss their art, processes, and thoughts, with the sole purpose of helping one each other learn and grow. The result was a close virtual companionship that proved to be — though unknown at the time — the kick-off meetings for the collective.
Many ‘art review calls’ later, general interest in digital art began to grow in 2021. People who previously showed little enthusiasm for art became more and more engaged; digital art won increasing recognition and profits made by traders rotated into the NFT market — from apes to art, as one might put it. The collective's Discord Home started thinking about how they could better collaborate to take advantage of the moment. “Joining forces in a collective seemed the perfect way,” says Icki, whose work takes cues from both minimalism and conceptual art.
Bloom is a collective of eleven artists distributed across the world, including — in addition to noCreative, Stephan, and Icki — artists such as Jenni Pasanen, Shavonne Wong, and Onyro, with expertise ranging across photography, fashion, traditional, 3D, and AI art, as well as digital painting. In addition to that, the group possesses significant knowledge gained from working in technology sectors and commercial environments. “It was all about finding the right mix,” Icki summarises.
“You get critiqued by people you respect, which can help you have breakthroughs.”
Whereas collectives are usually built around a certain artistic trait that every member shares, the common denominator in Bloom is intellectual, rather than thematic. “We are all very straightforward and direct, which is needed to have actual, good conversations about our art and processes,” says Stephan, a Dutch artist who began his career in IT, before transitioning to designing art for games, and later to creating digital post-romanticism art.
This shared intellectual approach is what unites Bloom's members. “We argue, but in an amicable and respectful way. Sometimes the given feedback can be a bit harsh, but we created a safe space and all know that the intentions are pure,” says Icki. The main goal, as it is commonly understood, is to discuss art in a truthful and respectful environment; all members have a genuine desire to see each other thrive.
Simply put, the philosophy of the collective is to “talk about art a lot, basically,” Icki grins. “It can be pretty brutal out there and creating digital art can be very recursive. You get critiqued by people you respect, which can help you have breakthroughs.” Sharing your work on Twitter is all well and good, and is an easy place to receive positive, if brief, feedback, but to receive the thoughtful constructive criticism that is really required to progress, artists have to look beyond their public feed, and towards trusted collaborators instead.
This approach works for Bloom because there is a “shared maturity” in the group. David Lisser, best known for his ‘cultured-meat’ artworks, explains that “we all know who we are as artists and have a certain confidence in what we are trying to transmit. Subsequently, critique is better to take. It is really amazing to have such a diversity of tools to help each other grow.” He adds, laughing, “I have actually got a healthy amount of imposter syndrome now. The other artists drive me to do better than before because I see what cool things they are doing.”
Onyro, a 3D digital abstract artist, adds that the collective also gives a sense of accountability: “I want to create things that not only I am proud of, but that can contribute to the whole group.” A common thread is how they feel that they are growing faster than ever. Stephan explains that “we challenge each other to help everyone reach their full potential, whilst being patient and helpful when someone is stuck.”
And whilst art in web3 is the direct — and original — focus, Bloom has emerged into much more than a community-help collective. “If you look at it from a broad perspective, we are all discovering the relationship between human and machine, and between computer and art in our own way,” Stephan says. “Who are we as a person, versus the technology we use? What is the entirety of web3 about, and how can we use it to our advantage?,” he muses. Those are the questions that are raised during the group calls of the collective.
“We are figuring out how to be an artist in relation to being a person, in a world that is inevitably changing at incredible speed.”
— Stephan Duquesnoy
“The impact for me has been significant,” Icki says. “I was very conceptually driven and my art lacked identity. Through the discussions I had with the Bloom members, I realised this and made a shift.” The British artist explains that his work is now inspired by a subversive treatment of reductionist and conceptual themes, in response to the world around him. “The difference between web3 and the traditional art world,” he continues, “is that we have to do everything ourselves. The only art critique in web3 seemed to be the algorithm, so we wanted to take matters into our own hands.”
Finnish artist Jenni Pasanen adds that “even before I joined Bloom, members in the collective had been supporting and helping me so much. It’s a group of alike people who create with passion.”
Members not only review each other’s art, but also seek out the definition of art in the context of web3. “The conversations we have are invaluable,” Stephan explains. “We are figuring out how to be an artist in relation to being a person, in a world that is inevitably changing at incredible speed.”
Nina is passionate about telling the stories of artists and documenting their artistic processes, so that they can focus on creating. She’s written for a range of cultural magazines in the Netherlands, her homeland, including 3voor12 and the Groninger Museum. Her work as a contemporary art historian has seen her work at Museum Voorlinden, the Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Today, her main and ever-increasing focus is on the digital art world, and she is fascinated by the endless possibilities of web3 and how crypto artists are pushing the boundaries of creating without gatekeepers.
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