Nazif Lopulissa rethinks the shapes and forms of the children’s playground

The Dutch artist’s childhood helped to inspire his latest project reinventing the playground. His work looks into moving it away from a regimented space into one that triggers playful imagination.

12 December 2019
Reading Time
3 minute read

Much is said about the influence of childhood experience on personal development, and in the case of Dutch artist, Nazif Lopulissa, it is those early years that continue to shape his creative output. “A lot of my work is actually inspired by childhood memories, inspired by objects or events when I was a child,” he says.

This is no more apparent than in one of his latest projects, inspired by the state of the playgrounds in his hometown of Tiel. “While visiting my grandma in the village, I saw the playgrounds I grew up with and the state they were in. There were high grass and colour faded objects instead of the vibrant colours,” says Nazif. With this fresh in his mind, he began to notice the state of playgrounds on his daily commute in Rotterdam, where he is based.

These observations inspired a curiosity for the topic, and his research led him to Aldo van Eyck, who he describes as “the godfather of playgrounds.” His opinion was that objects should be placed in a space and manner that allows the user to interpret them in their own way – something Nazif felt was the opposite of modern layouts. “The city of Rotterdam blindly picks a few objects – a slide, a swing and places them like Lego bricks without looking at the specific location or targeting a certain audience,” he says.

Since 2018, Nazif has been exploring this contradiction in a number of formats, including an exhibition titled Playgrounds at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam last year. His work here transformed playground components, painting these colourful 3D objects on classic canvasses. The idea was to detach the playground from its materiality, whilst retaining the basic shapes and colours normally associated with a playground.


Nazif Lopulissa

Following on from this he created a public installation in Zuidplein, Rotterdam, called Wiggle Wiggle. This colourful array of objects, each made from different materials, was placed in the centre of a public green, a location where you would often find a children’s playground. It transformed the space from something unremarkable to an attraction for people of all ages.

As well as an ever-present playfulness with forms and shapes, another constant in Nazif’s work is his approach. “I always approach my work from the same perspective, sketching out different scenarios and letting them sink in for a while. When drawing I never use an eraser, each line should be a good one, and if not it will lead to new challenging shapes and forms,” he says.

Much of Nazif’s current work is done in his studio just a few meters away from Rotterdam’s famous Markthal, but it was actually by accident that he ended up in the city where he has made his name. “I applied to HKU in Utrecht, and to the Artez in Arnhem. Luckily both academies rejected me because this led to me being accepted by the Willem de Kooning Academy. Rotterdam was actually the last option,” explains Nazif.

Despite not always being enthused by his studies, there were realisations he had during these years that continue to shape his way of working today. “It wasn’t the academy that would determine me as an artist, it was merely a surrounding. I didn’t see my academy as an academy anymore, but a place where I could let my creativity loose,” he says. “I graduated with the title of illustrator, but I am everything but an illustrator, to be honest.”

The breadth of disciplines Nazif encompasses in his work are also clear in his recent project, Windflower. He created interventions based on a series of connecting shapes that were made using a range of materials, culminating in large scale images that could also be viewed as separate works in their own right.

Continuing his work over the last two years, he is currently producing a book that will compile all his research into the playgrounds of Rotterdam. Having had such a heavy and varied workload since graduating just three years ago, he also plans to try and reduce the number of disciplines he works in.

“I have really become aware that the media used in my work can vary so much that it almost becomes chaotic. I’ve decided to narrow it down to a few media,” he says. “I’m not sure if this is the best way to go, but it definitely puts my head at ease.”

GalleryNazif Lopulissa

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Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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