Witcher III: Wild Hunt


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Visiting Velen: The Art of Chris Berens

Introducing Chris Berens’ spectacular The Witcher art piece No Gods nor Masters.

Arjan Terpstra
02 Sep 2021

We visited Dutch artist Chris Berens in his Amsterdam studio, to talk about his The Witcher painting No Gods nor Masters. A laborious work full of fantastic forest creatures in a clearing in the Velen forest; creatures that feel ethereal and grounded at the same time. It is a dry, hot summer day when I lock my bike in the high grass next to Chris Berens’ studio. Situated at the outskirts of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, I find myself caught in a twilight zone between the bustling city life of the Dutch capital and the tranquility of nature, illustrated by bees zooming about and a butterfly landing on my bike bell. It’s this in-between world where the Dutch artist is at home, he says, after we choose the coolness of his studio over a sun-drenched outdoor bench for our interview. A studio based in a wooden “tiny house” that’s crammed with the materials used for his craft, but could also double as a thrift store or some kind of museum: art books pile up high, and there’s a phonograph with a large silver horn in one corner. A classic pendulum clock keeps track of the time for us, piercing this tranquil world with its soft bronze chimes.

Inside Chris Berens’ studio, Amsterdam.

No man’s land
We sit down in this fabulous place to talk about Berens’ new, The Witcher-inspired work, called No Gods nor Masters, a spectacular piece showing Geralt of Rivia in a forest clearing, surrounded by a large host of creatures. “I chose that title because of a line from the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt game,” Berens says. He quotes, “‘No gods nor masters watch over Velen. The land is no man’s. He who wants to survive must seek his own protectors.’ To me, this is The Witcher in a nutshell, as it introduces Velen as a place that commands respect from man, due to the mystic properties of this forest place.”

Chris Berens. No Gods nor Masters (2021)

These properties really shine in Berens work. The forest clearing he painted holds dozens of characters that are only partly of this world: translucent gnomes that are half rock, a squad of floating swordsmen, or tall demons sporting antlers. Each character has a lightness to it, sometimes emanating light from within, and yet they are grounded too, visually connected to the dark trees, moss and rocks that surround them.

Germanic lore

“To me, the Witcher is very much about the connection we have to nature and the respect nature commands,” Berens says. “Whenever a village is plagued by an otherworldly creature, they count on a witcher to solve their problem for a few coins. Importantly, they fear him and respect him for this, in equal parts, for his ability to cross into this other realm is something well out of their reach.”

Chris Berens. Photo Bénédicte Latipau.

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