October 1, 2015

Das Verschwinden des Materials. Or Nick Fudge, Sleek Magazine, and a Little Extra

Nick Fudge, Cloud Drive, 2011 - 2015. Photo: Simon Gales

I promised you a while ago that I’ll tell you all about the who, what, when, where and why of Nick Fudge. Well, I wrote about it in detail for Sleek Magazine and you can read it there. But for my blog’s sake, I'll give you a little extra. First of all, you’ve seen Nick Fudge before - he was in my VLOG on the Venice Biennial where I interviewed him in the British Pavilion. Nick Fudge is a friend of Sarah Lucas, so that’s why he was hanging out there, looking good against the custard yellow colored walls. In my VLOG he tells us that he went underground after finishing Goldsmith at the end of the 1980s. So you can imagine my surprise when a few months after meeting him in Venice, the artist invited me to his exhibition opening in Hastings. What happens when underground goes up, I pondered. It’s bound to happen of course, and we’ve seen it happen in art history before: the up goes under, and the under goes up. 

So there we were, Berlin art lover Shuai Wang and I, on the train from London Cross to Sussex. Hastings is a town on the coast next to trendy Brighton. Nick Fudge told us that artists are moving away from London to more affordable towns in its proximity. There they can live in country cottages, as Fudge is doing. Hastings itself is pretty sweet - on Sunday when the sun was out, and upon half-closing my eyes, it even had the looks of San Francisco. There is some great fish and chips to eat in Hastings and I discovered that the Brits put vinegar on their pommes frites (I still prefer mayonnaise though). I have to warn you that when you decide to eat on the beach, don’t give any food to the seagulls. They will attack you from all sides and it’s scarier than the shrieking shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho

The Observer Building, where Nick Fudge has his exhibition, is quite spectacular. The old majestical building has been closed for 30 years and it shows. It’s not the usual white cube space. There’s graffiti all over. Downstairs there is a bar and a cinema, upstairs a huge exhibition space. Go and see it before it gets renovated, because the developer's plans for the building look horrible. Nick Fudge is exhibiting together with the painter Phil King in a show titled “Obscured by Clouds”. I don’t know if the title refers to the fact that Nick Fudge tends to be with his head in the clouds (a permanent disposition, so he told me). Most probably it refers to Hasting’s weather. The UK apparently suffered from a awfully rainy summer and everybody was looking with envy at our continental tan. 

Nick Fudge, FDP V.2.0_DES01009_2 and PM_BBW_OB_2, 1994-2015. Photo: Simon Gales

But enough "where" and "when", let’s get to the heart of the matter: the "what" and "who" of Nick Fudge. Nick Fudge is a post-internet artist, at least that's the category Shuai Wang picked to label him. Shuai explained to me what post-internet art is all about, and what I get from it is that it is inspired by the workings of the World Wide Web and all its related machineries but no longer limits its output to flickering computer screens. Nick Fudge might be a post-internet artist, but for me, he is first and foremost the Kurt Schwitters of the 21st century. You see, I ended up reading Nick Fudge’s digital prints and paintings. Now, I don’t “read” most art, I normally just look at it. Yet Fudge’s works seem to manifest a new abstract language inviting this action of reading. A modernist language put through the tube of the computer to see what comes out in a post-computer/internet phase, so to say. There is also literally language to be seen on Fudge’s work - he has a penchant for the word “Undo”. But he also knows the beauty of “Save” and “Trash”. Kurt Schwitters himself said the following about language in 1925: “The meaning and intentions of a new language are first realized when it is not only clear and understandable but cut down to the bone. What matters is the greatest possible simplification and compression.”

Exhibition view. Photo: Simon Gales

To explain to you the "why" of Nick Fudge, I'll have to fit his work into a theory of mine. Yes, this theory has a German title (it just doesn’t do the trick in English), it's called Das Verschwinden des Materials. The theory goes that the 20th century was all about material in the arts (combined with materialism in society). At the moment, 2015, we’re experiencing a last surge of the material before it will succumb (have a look at the Venice Biennial). This last surge of materialism is combined with a closing down (a result of economic crisis), a looking for stability and security (to be found in the object, the archive, the fixedness of a stereotype, or the narrative of a story) The immaterial is hard to grasp and therefore scary. After this last surge, however, the immaterial will gain importance - art as a memory image, art as a rhythm. For instance, Nick Fudge’s work never has a final output - most of the exhibited work had its inception as early as 1994 but was only printed in 2015. And even although some of Fudge's oeuvre has found an output in the exhibition, if you follow the artist on Facebook, you will see he’s returning these images in space and time into image files on the computer screen. 

 Nick Fudge, Machine of Connectivity and Undo,1994 - 2015. Photo: Simon Gales

Also Kurt Schwitters fits as an early forebode into my theory of Das Verschwinden des Materials. In 1926 he said “What art is, you know as well as I do: it is nothing more than rhythm.” Or earlier, in 1920, announcing his Merz art: “The material is as unessential as myself. The only essential thing is giving form. Because the material is unessential, I use any material the picture demands. By harmonizing different types of materials among themselves, I have an advantage over mere oil painting, for besides playing off color against color, I also play off line against line, form against form, etcetera, and even material against material, for example wood against burlap. I call the worldview from which this mode of artistic creation arose ‘Merz.’”

So far for my adventures in Hastings. I'm stuck in Berlin for the time being, but I've heard there's a computer file displaying Andy Warhol's version of a Botticelli at the Gemälde Galerie, a wacky collection shown at Martin Gropius Bau, and a new art space called Die Bäckerei. So plenty to do, and I will be reporting more soon.

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