Fergus Nm, aka FNM is a New Zealand / Kiwi artist creating colorful, surreal, chaotic and psychedelic art in a style he has labelled “Messyism”.
Also an accomplished musician, Fergus currently makes solo avant garde noise music under his ‘NNNC’ moniker and also sang in noted metal band ‘Bulletbelt’ til 2013 and experimental group ‘FANZ’ until their demise.
Inspired by 16/32 bit computer games, the art and hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, ancient myths and the music that he devoured as a child, Fergus posits his discovery of the work of the Surrealists when he was 15 as his defining artistic moment, stating:
“Around age 15 I discovered the visual and literary work of the Surrealists and the related surrealist/fantastical tradition… (it) blows my puny mind.
Max Ernst appears as a bright star high above, guiding me to a world I never knew, a world that looks like home.
Seeing the possibilities of collage, automatic drawing, chance operations, things like that, helped instill to me the value of experimentation and the relativism of things like ‘skill’ and ‘correct technique.’“
With Fergus gaining a growing following for his art, and about to release an album by his ‘NNNC’ project through the Buzzy Point record label, we thought now was the perfect time to ask Fergus some questions about art, life, music, growing up in New Zealand and a whole lot more!
Read it all in the interview below:
Name + D.O.B?
Born on the 9th of May during an early year of the 1990s.
City, State and Country you currently call home/where you are from?
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: music, art, toys, romance, comic books, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
A temperamental child who is fascinated by snails, Transformers, and making explosion noises on the trampoline.
At one point I cut my finger by accident, and having learnt the first letter of my name I write a great F in blood on the side of my house.
* Age 10 – continuations:
By now infatuated with the likes of Final Fantasy, Roald Dahl, Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and mythology.
First experiences with death in the family as a beloved aunt passes from cancer.
The Sony Playstation is the gateway to the Universe, and the bendy logic of childhood stretches and contracts as it pleases.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
In my early teens I begin making music. I start to play guitar, I join a band and start screaming, and making noise. I discover the joys of fucking around with effects pedals and amplifiers.
A chance meeting with the surrealist tradition blows my puny mind. Max Ernst appears as a bright star high above, guiding me to a world I never knew, a world that looks like home.
Collage, drawing, and finding wonder and weirdness becomes necessary to truly LIVE.
* Age 20 – young adult:
Although I continue to dig through books and trawl through internet forums in search of newer and more wondrous visions and music, I’m never quite happy with the results of my own art. I try new combinations, mediums, elements, all the rest.
I play in different bands and different styles.
A period of flux.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
I ebb and flow between artistic/musical activity and stifling inactivity.
I drift around the Wellington area, a different flat every year or so.
Occasionally I make plans to exhibit or publish, but these plans drift away like smoke – perhaps for the best! It takes time to be truly sure of yourself and your directions – even now I am not at that total point, but I get closer every day.
* Age 30 – fully formed:
Not quite at this point yet in numbers but I am in attitude (I hope!)
I feel comfortable in my artistic style and practice, and am dedicated to sharing my works.
My mental health, which has been temperamental at times, is now the most arranged and controllable it has ever been.
I live with my wonderful supportive partner and am overall pretty bloody lucky and privileged!
Not so much a motto as an epigram:
“You know about innards? The trick they play on tramps in the country? They stuff an old wallet with putrid chicken innards.
Well, take it from me, a man is just like that, except that he’s fatter and hungrier and can move around, and inside there’s a dream.”
– Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night
When and why did you first start to make art?
… and any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
I’ve always been drawing. From a young age I feel I’ve had a good grasp on what I find aesthetically appealing (I am somewhat aware of how pompous that sounds). Early obsessions would be the Final Fantasy games (IV – VIII in particular for those of you playing at home) and other 16/32 bit video games.
Over the past few months in particular I have more of a conscious understanding of the simplicity and beauty of those classic games, and how they have subconsciously influenced my style.
Another early influence that I only recently realised the magnitude of is the tomb art of Ancient Egypt – the two dimensional perspective, with everything pressed up to the forefront of the image, really influences my composition and style.
I incorporate my own personal hieroglyphs into my pictures – there’s a fork like shape that over the past few years has something between a signature, a sigil, and a hieroglyph.
Around age 15 I discovered the visual and literary work of the Surrealists and the related surrealist/fantastical tradition. I had already engaged with the works of William S Burroughs and JG Ballard, and I think I must’ve found surrealism proper through them.
Seeing the possibilities of collage, automatic drawing, chance operations, things like that, helped instil to me the value of experimentation and the relativism of things like “skill” and “correct technique.”
In terms of how I draw, long time visual influences from that era would be artists like Max Ernst, Unica Zürn, Leonora Carrington, and looking down from some strange heaven upon us all is the esteemed Hieronymus Bosch.
Whilst we know you through your art – care to share with those at home the details of your other creative endeavors… if any?!
I’ve played in bands over the years of different sorts.
I’ve played guitar in noise rock groups, was the frontman of a black metal band for a couple years, and have done many different electronic/noise/experimental collaborations over the past decade.
I have been making what you could loosely call noise music since I was a teenager.
These days I sporadically play out under the moniker of NNNC (an abbreviation that changes constantly – originally it stood for No Nonsense Noise Cannon, but I change it for every show/mood), where I try to find some balance between nostalgic blurred loops and flaming ropes of coloured static.
The static usually wins.
What do you do for a day job at the moment?
… and how does your day job impact / influence your artistic practice?
I work in the public service, part time.
Artistically I feel I work my best late at night and the hours of my dayjob allow me to do this most nights of the week.
Work is a necessary evil but at this particular job I feel my work does some level of good, so I don’t feel as bad as I have at other jobs in the past.
Please describe the usual process involved with producing your art?
I’m quite haphazard – I have a bunch of pages on the go at any given point that I’ll draw on these through over the space of a few hours.
At some point separate sections of these pages are cut up and collaged onto other pages, along with scraps, doodles, random ink marks, et cetera.
I used to make more collages from found matter but this has slowed down since I have been focusing more on drawing – the occasional bit still sneaks in!
There’s no proper routine when it comes to colouring, linework, composition – I work intuitively (I like to draw parallels with the Psychic Automatism practised by the classic surrealists).
There’s a reason I half-jokingly refer to my art style as Messyism.
Worst aspect(s) of the art hustle? Best aspect(s) of the art hustle?
I don’t really see myself as part of any hustle per se but I do find it thrilling when someone lets me know they enjoy something I have made – if they are willing to pay for that, all the better!
Although I have been drawing and whatnot for years now I’ve only recently taken the steps to share this work more freely with others.
Favourite other artist(s)?
I get totally obsessive with certain artists and styles constantly – there are too many to name! I listed above my major influences from my youth above who all remain big faves.
I love art that comes with a certain roughness, be it in subject matter, technique, skill, or all of the above. The likes of Daisuke Ichiba, Susan Te Kahurangi King, and Mark Beyer definitely influence my personal style.
Any projects you want to hype?
On my own front – I’m looking to release two zines this year (all things going well!) – one of which will feature works by some of esteemed friends and fellow travellers.
I’d also like to bring attention to Buzzy Point (BZP), the record label/mysterious organisation headed by my good friend/long time musical ally Thomas.
BZP will be putting out my first musical release in a long time as NNNC sometime in the not too distant future – access the archives here: https://buzzypoint.bandcamp.com/
If people wanted to work with you, have a chat or buy something – how should they get in touch?
Like many other millennials of the early 21st century it is easiest to contact me through Instagram – @fnmdraws.
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
I have a fascination with Europe during the interwar period – in some ways I feel we are living in a similar era – the chaos and change helped to foster some amazing works.
It’s easy to idealise different times in history, I mean realistically I’d probably be a simple colonial yokel or something were I alive then!
I’d like to say my next choice would be to live in ancient Mesopotamia or something, but truthfully I would also be partial to live a life of bourgeois luxury in the Decadent era as some Libertine Lord or Anarchist Count, dosed on opium and hermetic philosophy.
What role did toys play in your childhood(s)?
I was always into toys, especially plush/soft toys. I would treat them, as many children do, as talismans, good luck charms, comforting friends.
At one point I managed to acquire an armadillo soft toy which I’d love to try and dig out one day.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Neither one nor the other (for me at least).
A tool for some, a crutch for others.
What do you think the New Zealand / Kiwi zeitgeist is today?
I feel an outsider in many ways – most art in the Wellington area is conceptual/installation based which doesn’t really connect with me. I’m lucky to know a few other artists cut from a similar cloth locally, and I try to spread my work to like-minds in my circle when I can.
Outside of my minuscule art circles, well, I am at a loath to really say anything else, short of saying that I fear New Zealand is definitely not this progressive powerhouse we may appear to be to outsiders.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
I remember feeling pretty crushed by the girl in the incredibly tacky video for the incredibly tacky song “Butterfly” by Crazy Town, bahahahaha!
No one of a certain age was safe from the nu metal years.
Does sex change everything?
Well, losing my virginity made me feel a lot less self-conscious, so maybe it does.
What are the top 3 items you own?
My three favourite items in my possession are, in no particular order:
My copy Suehiro Maruo’s Maruograph Grandioso, signed by the artist.
Discovering Suehiro Maruo a couple years ago ignited my passion for art in a way that few other visual artists have. I hold this copy of his works close to my heart – it is a pleasure to be able to have his countless strange tableaux and feverish dreams at my fingertips.
My Yamaha SU200 sampler.
This thing is key to what I do musically. It is a very primitive and idiosyncratic sampler with all kinds of strange features and quirks. As different loops are layered on it it glitches and stutters in a way that nothing else really does.
It was my first sampler, purchased during a moment of personal grief and trouble, and even after acquiring more technically advanced gear it’s the bit of kit I find myself reaching for most often when I make music.
Last but certainly not least is this absolutely stunning ceramic raccoon-faced mug that my partner’s mother made me.
Raccoons are some of my favourite creatures – their trickster nature and antics are enchanting. I almost wept when I saw one in the flesh while on holiday just recently.
I felt something similar when first seeing this gift!
Scribe would, he’s had a pretty rough run over the years, although I would like to think that with him and Dog cooler heads would prevail.
In celebration of that thought, here is a little haiku to contemplate the scene:
How many dudes you
know? not many if any.
The Dog is one, though.
Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
One of the Gargoyles maybe?
A quick google search reveals that this is probably a lot closer to fruition that I thought it would be.
I’m not one to judge, but would a sex toy based on Bronx, the dog-like Gargoyle, be entering a realm of bestiality? Pseudo-bestiality? Is a Gargoyle a beast anyway?
Food for thought.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I’m so terrible at remembering my dreams. I couldn’t even tell you the last dream I can remember, sadly.
I used to have the most psychedelic dreams as a teenager but that well is dry at the moment.
I can tell you my earliest remembered nightmare though…
I was in some old ruins at night, with the moon shining above. There were pools full of water with skeletal remains at the bottom. I am eventually chased through this midnight labyrinth by a skeleton with a haircut, not unlike the skeletons seen on the cover of some classic Goosebumps book covers (ha!).
As the skeleton corners me, I squeal “mummy!” and wake up.
Upon reflection years later it appears that this dream was a rebus – crying out mummy as an actual mummy gets me.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
It would be quite lovely to know that my work has inspired someone, or given them the same feeling that I get from looking at what I consider great art.
Being remembered for being pretty nice would be okay, too.