INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST TOMMY FIENDISH

INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST TOMMY FIENDISH

“You must be prepared to invest in yourself, if you're not prepared to, why should anyone else?"


We went and met Painter/Artist and jack of all things creative Tommy Fiendish at his amazing home studio in Dalston, East London. We first became aware of this unique talent when we spotted his billboard on the London Underground promoting his latest exhibition works. We fell in love with the particluar image on the billboard titled Kiss the Ring part of the Fear and Salvation IV collection. We had to hunt him down and get the background of what makes this man tick. In this we ask how his journey began, his advice for fellow creatives and what keeps him motivated.


So who is Tommy Fiendish, where did that come from? 

TF is a London based emerging artist toying with whatever creative outlet he can lay his hands on. Talking about myself in the 3rd person there. The name Tommy Fiendish comes from my scampish days in Manchester in the early 2000s, at the time I was using the name Mr PSIK for both the graffiti and my musical alias. At one point I put out a breakbeat bootleg record of the beautifully haunting, Ghost Town by the Specials on white label, keen to avoid a spanking from the authorities I made up the name Big Johnny Fiendish. Whilst playing the track to a Manchester DJ in a record shop, he said, Johnny? Should be Tommy Fiendish no? Thinking that it had a ring to it, I kept the Name Mr PSIK for the music and continued to use TF for the art. 

What was your background like growing up?  

My childhood was of Camden council estates and adventuring in and around Camden lock where I spent so much time in the canal I suspect I have canal water running through my veins, I have a theory that this is why I never get sick. Like Obelix, dipped in the magic potion as a baby. Swimming amongst punk piss and dog carcasses in the 80's has finally paid off.  At the age of 12 My mother and I moved to Manchester for her work, the area we lived in was like living in an episode of Shameless or Coronation Street, grim, though as time rolled on I made some great friends that would  help shape my future. When I was 18 my mother got another job back in London, now having a life in Manchester, I stayed. Left with £200 and staying on a friend's sofa, I then maged to get a spot in a housing association place for young people where the rent was a purse busting £2 pw.  Everything I have built came from this. I am immensely proud of my Mum for raising me alone, she was studying for as long as I can remember and when she left Manchester, left with a PHD. 

Does art run in the family?  

Art is in the family blood yes (just let a pint canal water to make room). My father is an artist, he wasn't around from an early age, though I was aware of what he was doing. We had minimal contact for a long time,  though I'm very happy to say we have reconnected over the past few years. He has become somewhat of a mentor and has always been an artistic inspiration. 

When we met you told us that painting hasn't been your only creative output, you were a successful tattoo artist and music producer. Tell us a bit about those.  

I was indeed a tattoo artist for a good while. I had many jobs growing up, call centre, bong salesman, croupier, quite a range. When I was 24 I decided I needed to make a living from my art. At  this time I lived in a house with 16 friends, the infamous Moss lane years. One of the guys I was Living with was a tattoo artist and after showing him my drawings he managed to get me a spot as an apprentice at the studio in Manchester city centre where he was working.  I was working 3 days a week unpaid in the studio and 3 days in a shop. Luckily I was happy to be poorer than a church mouse at the time. It was here with the help and instruction of my fantastic co-artists I learnt the ropes. This led to work in Australia, Holland, Sweden, my tattoos being  published in various magazines and was what I was doing when I moved back to London in 2014. It was only relatively recently, since 2017 that I have been seriously painting. I stopped tattooing a while ago to focus on what I felt was, without sounding too cheesy, my calling.  Doing my BA was hugely beneficial to this transition. Graduating from LCC, University of the Arts London in 2018, allowed me to make an evolutionary leap in my practice. This was not a painting course however and I found myself benefiting from the writing and theory more than the practical, the technical painting ability is self taught. The course was labled 'Illustration and Visual Media', what the fuck is that? An ambiguous title though taught illustration, animation (which I was keen to learn) and sound which I already had a background in and was keen to develop.  As you mention I have produced music for years, though I'd say far from successful haha. The music production stemmed from my friends and I at the tender age of 18 religiously attending an acid techno club night in Manchester. Havok, Havok, Havok, Total, Fucking, Havok. (If you know, you know). It was a total experience, not just the music but all the other things that came from attending an acid techno night in Manchester in the late 90s. I then started to buy the records, I later lent a copy of Music 2000 on the Playstation from which I would produce my first (terrible) tracks since Mario Paint. Mushroom kicks, who remembers that? Fast forward a few years, my friend and housemate had a computer with Fruity Loops, music software. It was from playing on his computer that I produced my first release in 2003, PSIK Theme and Flaccid Acid. Released on the Breaks Label FUSE TRAX from the legendary Manchester breaks night, FUSE.  I was playing at clubs, festivals and raves fairly regularly, at the time I thought this is what I will be doing. Music. The art was secondary.  What grips me about making music is that I'm able to raise and lower excitement, change moods and create atmosphere through sound. Once I discovered how to make what I actually wanted to hear I was hooked. Losing hours in a single loop pounding far too loudly in the headphones. If you listen to the music and look at the images, hopefully you can  feel the links. Still producing today. 

Your art definitely has a specific style with quite a dark undertone in most cases. How would you describe it and where does the inspiration come from?  

Thinking about that, the images are often bold and fearless, and yes, could be considered macabre. This is interesting as I am not a confrontational character and generally, chilled and certainly Beta rather than Alpha. Though this is one of the great things about being an artist. You are able to project your inner self behind a mask of paint. You are able to be completely truthful within your expression, revealing harsh truths in metaphors or expressive marks. This mask of expression can be very therapeutic, to reveal one's innermost thoughts for all to see in a language perhaps only you can understand can be enough to take it off your mind.  I am a big believer in art therapy, it's possible to channel mental turmoil to canvas, sound, writing or any other creative outlet. No need to be literal and just make sure you create for yourself.  It's often hard to talk to people about the real things that are troubling you, it's a lot easier through art.  “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”- Oscar Wilde (not that I've read Wilde, I just like the quote).   I should add to that, if someone is thinking about art as a form of therapy but put off by the idea that they can't paint or draw, please forget that. You do not need to be able to render things perfectly, it's more about getting out an idea rather than creating something that looks nice. This expression can come in the form of the colours used, the way the paint is applied, words you choose to include or anything that gets the message across. One thing I have learnt is to not worry about how the finished product will look. You don't have to show it to anyone and you can always do another. 

As a creative, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work? 

I make work about things that have affected me. Much of it is a social commentary, there's always fresh events to comment on. I have many ideas stacked in my mind cart, always experimenting. I stop asking 'what if', and get on with it. There is much to expose in the world that can be represented in the work, social injustice, environmental decay, the conflicts between the engines of science and religion, the psychology of man and many more. The essence of the work is often based around these topics, though can shouting a  message be considered more propaganda? I'm constantly asking myself where the line is between art and propaganda. Using the term propaganda comes loaded with negative, war time connotations. Though as Edward Bernays stated, you have propaganda and impropaganda, if you  use it for war you can certainly use it for peace. So in response to your question, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work? I remind myself that I am conscious.

What is the best and worst advice that you have been given? 

Best advice, don't eat yellow snow. Worst advice, eat that yellow snow. 

And what advice would you give to fellow creatives?    

Advice for fellow creatives. It's about getting your work out there and seen by the people who might actually be interested in it and meeting people who can help you achieve this. One of the best moves I made was exhibiting at The OtherArt Fair (TOAF). This is a great spot to show as there are people there specifically to buy art, make connections and scout for artists for their various projects and for me, has led to various gallery interests and had my work featured in the 'Need For Speed Heat' Playstation game. I put everything I had into getting a booth which I was prepared to lose. Luckily it was successful and paid for itself. You must be prepared to invest in yourself, if you're not prepared to, why should anyone else?  Be nice. Keep your work true and for you. You may have to compromise your beliefs to pay the rent from time to time (perhaps do this under a different name) but try not to create anything that you will later hate.

In your opinion what’s integral to the work of an artist?  

Truth.  

How do you cultivate a collector base?  

Again it comes from having your work seen by the people who are interested in it. Find those places. 

Here at The Hobo Journal we love to travel hence the name, where is your favourite place on earth?  

You mean apart from being in the studio?  There is one place that springs to mind, a very specific spot in Ubud, Bali. My wife and I were out for the day exploring around Ubud, on the hour long scooter ride back to the hotel, the heavens opened and we were caught in a torrential storm. Both scantily clad, we were semi frozen by the time we reached our hotel through the chaotic Balinese traffic swarm. Arriving back we ran the bath that was in the garden of our little villa. Both slipping into the hot bath to thore off and sipping on a Bintang in the rain made this spot a blissful place to be. In a hot bath, in a jungle garden, in the rain with my naked misses opposite. Bali, especially Ubud, is staggeringly beautiful. The people are kind and gentle, the food is superb and the visuals you are rewarded with are humbling. Take me back.


More images below from Danny Woodstock Photographer   




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