Noodles – affordable, adaptable, and universally appealing to all palates. We tend to experience a ‘comfort food buzz’ merely just thinking about indulging in carby strands of deliciousness, and when we’re suffering through a keto diet, perhaps even more so. None of us are fans of the ‘starving artist’ trope, but creatives like Tommy Fiendish distinctly recall their noodles noodles noodles days all too well. They’re certainly a blessing for anyone on a tight budget, but if we end up dining on the pantry staple 92% of the time, they can quickly become a monotonous reminder of the financial struggle that sometimes befalls us while pursuing our dreams.
I wasted many years. One of the driving forces behind my dedication today is not wanting to look back and think what might have been.
Frankly, we’re as surprised as you that the wheat-based comestible has taken center stage in our profile about Tommy Fiendish, but – throughout the course of our chat with him – he referenced that particular edible quite a few times. When we asked the UK-based painter what ‘making it in the art world’ means to him, he responded, “To be exhibiting in the places I want whilst not being kicked down the noodle aisle.” In the midst of offering insight into the many things that he does to ensure that his art yields a sustainable livelihood, he proceeded to share the following pasta-panached anecdote:
“I seem to repeatedly put my plums on the line when it comes to investing in shows that I believe will pay off. I exhibited at The Other Art Fair in 2019 in Shoreditch, East London, which was the first time I had ever participated in a show like that. I was completely broke back then. Prior to that event, I hadn’t been selling much of my art. I quite literally put every penny I had into the show, so if it didn’t go well, you’d end up finding me in the noodle aisle.”
By taking that risky leap of faith, the self-described painter of “dystopian social commentary with a twist of macabre drollery” ended up having a chance meeting with one particularly notable art fair attendee – a representative of Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA), the same video game company responsible for popular titles like The Sims, Madden NFL, and Battlefield. The happy result of that connection? Tommy’s tenebrific art was ultimately included in their racing-themed video game, Need for Speed Heat. Hasta la vista, linguine!
There is a social commentary to the work and yes it comes across in a macabre form, but if you really want to know me and understand everything that I have lived, you just have to look at my art.
We take the time to profile artists like Tommy Fiendish so that our readers are exposed to the vast depth and breadth of talent in today’s contemporary art world. We’re especially interested, though, in illuminating the many ways in which creatives like him make their own career opportunities happen (rather than hoping that the stars will conveniently align). As we quickly learned, the LCC University of the Arts London graduate – who was likely endowed with a bit of natural artistic ability via his professional artist father, David Eddington – has, indeed, made a habit of shaking quite a few trees throughout his journey.
Self-discovery was at the top of the agenda for Tommy in his earlier years, something that we can all relate to. An unabashed fan of “finding the art” in whatever life pursuit he engages in, Tommy has donned various creative hats, including that of a street artist, club/festival/rave DJ, music producer, electronic musician, tattoo artist, sign writer, set designer, and fine art painter. In the late 1990s and well into the 2000s, he was “all about the music”, performing as a Manchester-based DJ under the creative moniker Mr. PSIK (which was also his graffiti tag). As the years passed, his quest for creative fulfillment led him to the world of tattoo art. His typography and graphic art leanings seemed perfectly suited for skin canvases, so – at the age of 24 – he began a two-year tattooing apprenticeship which ultimately resulted in a decade long career.
While being in that profession afforded Tommy various international traveling opportunities – including stints in southeast Asia and Australia – the nonstop lifestyle that accompanied both the music and art skin biz proved to be “harder to shake off than a tubby toddler in a supermarket”. He found himself taking a cold hard look at the detrimental effects of those many years, recognizing that he’d have to take aggressive measures in order to make his larger dreams of becoming a fine art painter possible. As such, Tommy regards 2017 as a “landmark year” in which “maturity, education, and a slow evolution of styles” inevitably paved the path that he is currently walking.
My art won’t always be a super yay, happy joy fun time because life isn’t like that.
Liberating himself from the increasingly stressful demands of the tattoo industry so that he could crossfade into painting required that he commit to a ‘life back on track’ plan of action. In addition to seeking professional counseling, Tommy ended up receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in illustration/visual media with first degree honors, which is certainly indicative of his applaudable end goal focus. Painting proved to be the art form through which he was most effectively able to communicate his truth, but it served an equally important purpose: “To fulfill my potential. I wasted many years. One of the driving forces behind my dedication today is not wanting to look back and think what might have been.”
Infinitely intrigued with creative possibilities, Tommy Fiendish enjoys utilizing acrylic, spray paint, enamel – “whatever makes the mark…within reason” – in unexpected ways. His affection for using so many diverse mediums on large-scale canvases shines light on the aspect of his personality that relishes experimentation, personal expression, and liberation. Haphazardly applied swaths of pigment join forces with intentionally harmonized gradients of color, liberally built-up textures and – yes, even random drips of diluted acrylic – resulting in edgy, distinctively moody visuals that hint at the journey he has taken thus far. His daring mark-making, he reveals, is partially motivated by his strong desire to avoid being artistically pigeonholed.
Painting out the darkness channels the weight from your mind into a physical form you can see and control. I recommend art therapy to anyone.
The London-based artist’s dark, nightmarish scenarios punctuated with humans, animals, and striking architectural elements clearly utilize a wide spanning visual vocabulary. Among his many abstraction, surrealism and realism details, it’s not uncommon to see lettering and graffiti, the latter two of which are the byproduct of his tattooing and signwriting roots. The beholder will occasionally note a retro aesthetic, which in certain instances tends to convey the sense that there is something ever so slightly…off. Tommy incorporates vintage imagery into his paintings because, unlike contemporary visuals, he believes that the viewer tends to romanticize the hazy past. Nonetheless, he feels that the aesthetic of yesteryear is actually reflective of 21st century life due to its very familiar “filtered, airbrushed, edited” look.
It’s not uncommon for creatives to move back and forth between series to ensure that they maintain momentum while manifesting fresh, original narratives. Thematically, the work that Tommy Fiendish produces is at times gritty and seemingly apocalyptic. He acknowledges that “if I do something that appears overly happy or twee, I feel there needs to be an element of misfortune added for balance.” Delve further into his portfolio and you’ll note another aspect of his painterly personality which is perfectly crystalized in works like Surgical Lamb and The Remedy Stairs: Part I, where darkly humorous narratives explore the deeper psychological underpinnings of the human experience. His art is as much a reflection of society as it is of his inner world. “There is a social commentary to the work and yes it comes across in a macabre form,” the artist explains, “but if you really want to know me and understand everything that I have lived, you just have to look at my art”.
As much as the last several years have proven to be creatively and professionally fulfilling for Tommy, his artistic practice has further provided him with an outlet through which to support his emotional wellbeing. Using one’s art as a form of self-therapy is something he strongly believes in, stressing that being artistically gifted isn’t a pre-requisite to “channeling your inner demons into poetic words, sound, or on canvas. Painting out the darkness channels the weight from your mind into a physical form you can see and control. I recommend art therapy to anyone.”
If I do something that appears overly happy or twee, I feel there needs to be an element of misfortune added for balance.
It may seem haughty to suggest that Tommy needed to stumble along the way in order to connect with his most authentic creative self, but then again, isn’t that precisely what we learn through our accumulated life experiences and – hopefully – our hard-earned wisdom? The painter of life’s many left-of-center oddities and humorous misfortunes is fully committed to depicting what rings true to him, so – quite naturally – “it won’t always be a super yay, happy joy fun time because life isn’t like that”. Instead, his canvases contain “elements of Greek tragedy rolled into the soggy rizla of dark comedy, sparked with the flame of metaphorical surrealism”. His very relatable walk down memory lane isn’t just for him, though – it’s for all of us, because “if we can’t laugh, we’re doomed”.