“do i feel good about what i did today?”
- “gain riches, or don’t” by Soft Online
It’s easy to fall into a rut - in your work life, social life or creative life - where you wonder if you’re doing what you’re doing because it’s what’s expected or because it’s what you really want to do. Then there’s the fear; that you’re not quite good enough at what you do yet, that if you try something else you’ll be back at square one, or that in either case, people won’t get it or won’t care. When you’re in this place, it can be especially chore-like to perform the seemingly mandatory self-promotion on social media that has you carefully curating posts to project an image of consistency, accomplishment and satisfaction. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Toronto multi-disciplinary artist Nik, who goes by Soft Online as a visual artist and House Sounds as a musician, embraces a model of freedom, experimentation and a willingness to fail that makes their work both relatable and low-key, very inspiring.
Before their breakthrough, Nik was like most artists who questions themselves, but when there are ideas and images that you can only get out by making things with your hands, something’s gotta give. They started out in linocut printmaking, seeing it as a relatively accessible medium, but as they’ve continued to make work and share it with those who find it resonant, they’ve expanded their practice to include digital illustration and more recently, ceramics. There’s a provisional quality to much of Nik’s work that endearingly rejects traditional notions of “good” or “skill” or “complete” (no surprise, J. Halberstam’s “The Queer Art of Failure” was an early influence) and yet the aesthetic and the ideas at play are so well suited together that every piece reads as fully and lovingly realized.
Nik’s work plays with binaries of all types, in their motifs, themes and tone: alienation is as present as companionship, fragility as much as strength, fantasy as well as mundanity, etc. The ever-present idea that nothing is just one thing and everything has nuance is one that is sorely lacking in culture today, where everyone wants to take hard-line positions, and the lack of judgement in that respect makes the work extremely refreshing and pretty universally congenial. This idea also speaks to the multiplicity of Nik’s practice: when they share new work, it’s anyone’s guess whether it’ll be a print or drawing, a new band they’ve joined, or even a video game. Each project contributes to what Nik describes as “a collage of queer self-portraits,” and though most of the the work is not a representation of them, each work is decidedly of them. So if you need a reminder to let go of your preconceptions and do things for the love of doing them (and the love of being you), check out Soft Online on all platforms (site, instagram, twitter, itch.io) and house sounds on YouTube.