Fergus NM is a Kiwi artist and musician who we first spoke to in a extensive interview back in March 2020. Since then Fergus has been continuing his practice, dipping his toes into the Neo-Decadent movement and has also launched ‘Venomous Feathers’ – A publishing house and periodical of the same name which Fergus will use to publish his own works, and those of others.

Wanting to see were he’s at and learn all about ‘Venomous Feathers’ we sent Fergus some questions to answer over email.
Catch up with Fergus below…

Catching Up

First off – How have you been since we last spoke in March 2020?

For the most part I have been well!
Like the whole damn world the malignant miasma of COVID-19 has been ever-present here – New Zealand has so far managed to escape the brunt of the damage but this summer is looking like it might be a bit frightening… that being said, there’s some degree of normality on the horizon with our borders reopening in the new year – it will be great to get out to see family and friends outside of the frame of a screen.

Global pandemics aside, I’ve continued with a somewhat quiet life of mundane part-time work, reading an absolute ton, and creating and promoting art, which of course leads us to:

A recent photo of Fergus.

… and any major life changes, accomplishments or anything else to share?

Quite a few creative accomplishments since our last chat – I have contributed to the print and digital editions of the excellent underground almanac Tinystar Magazine, I’ve published two solo zines since that first interview (SERAPHIM SIGHTED CHERUBIM DELIGHTED, and my new publication CUPIO DISSOLVI CASTLE), have an abstracted comic coming out in a local comics collection soon, and also have founded the small press ‘Venomous Feathers’ – more information on that being mere lines away.

Fergus’ latest zine – CUPIO DISSOLVI CASTLE

We know you have been delving deep into the Neo-Decadent movement…
How’s that all turning out for you?

I’m definitely sympathetic to a lot of the ideas and sentiments of those wily Neo-Decadents, but I would hesitate to call myself a card-carrying member, ha!
If pushed into a corner I would describe my personal artistic presence as being Messyist with Neo-Decadent tendencies. You are right though – I am in regular correspondence with many in the nascent movement and there is crossover with them and the ‘Venomous Feathers’ crew (the great Sailor Stephens contributed to both V. F. 01 and Neo-Decadence: 12 Manifestos, and Ila Pop is – rightfully – held in high esteem by the group).

The particular aim of the movement to break free from the choking chain of nostalgia is something that excites me.
I’m hopeful that the ever-shrinking nostalgia cycle we find ourselves in (think the tendency for a lot of popular music and films to revert back to a particular idealisation of the 1980s) soon exhausts itself and we can look towards something that may not necessarily be entirely new, but definitely different.

Two particular texts from the writers in the Neo-Decadent circle influenced my new publication CUPIO DISSOLVI CASTLE. These are Blue on Blue by Quentin S. Crisp and The Neo-Decadent Manifesto of Architecture by Damian Murphy, Gaurav Monga, and L. C. von Hessen, as collected in Neo-Decadence: 12 Manifestos. Both of these contain powerful and playful approaches to the strange potential hidden in the constructions that surround us, be it in the glow of memory that Blue on Blue’s spectral castle exudes, or the in etheric doubles that all existing buildings unknowingly mirror, as described in the Manifesto.

I consider the Neo-Decadents to be a particular limb of the vital artistic underground that I’ll discuss a little later on.

I’m very hyped for the upcoming collection Neo-Decadence Evangelion.

Some recent art by Fergus.

‘Venomous Feathers’ Questions

For those at home who may be unaware – Please outline and explain the who, what and why of ‘Venomous Feathers’?

My official answer to this: “Venomous Feathers is a small press that seeks to provide retinal delights to starving eyes.

I am the editor, facilitator, financier, tin-pot dictator etc of this (very) small press. The term retinal delights is key here: from a Venomous Feathers publication one can expect an emphasis on gorgeous/garish colour schemes, an abundance of  dazzling, dazing and wondrous imagery, and a strong disregard for the dated duality of the high/low cultural divide.

The first two titles are now out into the world. These are the international anthology VENOMOUS FEATHERS V.F. 01, and my own collection of Impossible Palaces titled CUPIO DISSOLVI CASTLE.  

The Venomous Feathers logo.

What are some of your goals and desired outcomes for ‘Venomous Feathers’?

At the most self-serving level it’s a platform I can use to publish my own work!

There’s a lot more to it than that, though. I’m seriously intoxicated by imagery.
Call me a romantic, but there’s something about certain created images that jolts my ineffable core. I’m genuinely obsessed with the work of the artists included in the Venomous Feathers V. F. 01 anthology. They’re all stars in my personal aesthetic constellation, and those stars all burn bright as fuck!
I think other people would do well to be scorched by them, and if I can manage to zap anyone else in the retinal pleasure centre through my or anyone else’s images then I consider that a success.

Convoluted solar extended metaphors aside: I want to share brilliant images from brilliant artists, to curious eyes and minds.

How did you come to choose the artists who feature in the ‘Venomous Feathers’ anthology?

There’s a wider art underground that exists in both print and online that regular readers of ‘The Aither’ will be no doubt aware of – This website is indeed a particularly vibrant organ of this system – and it is with a burning enthusiasm that I’m forever searching through this underground (or undergrowth!) for visuals and imagery that hit me right in the convulsive-beauty sweet-spot.
Specific publications and presences that have led me to some of the artists in V. F. 01 include Philadelphia’s scuzz collective ‘Reptile House Comix‘, the online groups and printed material of European powerhouses ‘Le Dernier Cri‘ and ‘Sterput Gallery‘, and of course Chile’s finest publications: Estrellita Mia and Tinystar Magazine.

Other artists I found through Instagram – it’s a dump of a platform but amongst all of the dross and misery there is an eternity of beautiful imagery to be found – and through my correspondences with the aforementioned Neo-Decadents.

Barring Thomas E. Richards (of ‘Buzzypoint’; one of my oldest collaborators and dearest friends) and Olga Lapin (an incredibly talented young musician (and friend) who I came to know through the local noise scene) all of the artists featured in V. F. 01 are recent discoveries to me.

On a more editorial level, I consider there to be three nebulous stylistic threads running through the V. F. 01 anthology.
If I may indulge my own personal terminology for a bit (the artists themselves may agree or disagree with any of my interpretations to whatever degree they see fit, and are more than welcome to voice their pleasure or otherwise) these threads are:

  • Messyism:
    Which embraces bright or even lysergic colour combinations, is enthusiastic about underrated/crude tools such as coloured pencils, felt pens, and vivid markers, and favours an individual or even heta-uma approach to draughtsmanship.
    Here we find the glue-stick and blunted scissors in symbiosis with the dried-out Sharpie and the fractured crayon.
    This is where I’d include myself (Fergus Nm), Churchdoor Lounger, Joshua William Mackie, Archie Fitzgerald, and Eléonore Kenis & Kenny Ozier-Lafontaine.
A work by Archie Fitzgerald – Which appears in Issue 1 of ‘Venomous Feathers.’
  • New Aotearoa Abstraction:
    So named as the examples in the anthology inhabit the same islands as each other (and myself), this style is similarly drawn to bright or attention-seizing colour schemes. There is also something alive and alien about the forms we see in this style – there are suggestions of equatorial flora, architectural corals, teeming microverses.
    Shapes and colours suggest the blooming, the rippling, the drooping, and these could delight, or mystify, or endanger. Here I’d include the paintings of Alexandra McFarlane, Thomas E. Richards, and Olga Lapin.
A work by Alexandra McFarlane – Which appears in Issue 1 of ‘Venomous Feathers.’
  • Modern Erotic Grotesquerie:
    Reappropriating it’s ero-guro namesake from the misogynistic stupidities of basement dwelling hacks, the images in this style are much more interested in being charged with a feverish and scuzzy sexuality, rather than base sex & death shock. Fetishistic themes take on an almost apocalyptic resonance, and bodies reveal themselves as both a wellsprings pleasure and abscesses of horror.
    It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as there’s a playfulness here: those same vibrant colours appear again, and even the smuttiest print can hide a disarming cuteness in plain sight.
    In this style Lisa Frank and Suehiro Maruo cast shadows of influence of the same length!
    Here we find Ila Pop’s Ballardian digital dreams, Holly Firesheets’ slough-glittered girls, and Sailor Stephens’ Neo-Decadent collages of council-estate magic.
A collage by Sailor Stephens – Which appears in Issue 1 of ‘Venomous Feathers.’

These three threads all intersect with one another – for example V. F. 01 features a collage by Thomas E. Richards that applies a Messyist palette to his New Aotearoa Abstract imagery, and some of Eléonore & Kenny’s stuff takes Modern Erotic Grotesquerie to a ridiculous Messyist extreme.
In almost all of the contributions to the anthology there is an affinity for collage techniques, and it was with this in mind that I have attempted to unify  these three intersecting styles into one delectable document.
I like to think that I have achieved this, but you, dear viewer, are welcome to judge this yourself!

Is ‘Venomous Feathers’ open to contributors and / or submissions at all?
… and if so – How can people get involved?

At present I have a vague idea of who I would like to work with in the future, but I adore seeing interesting new images, so any artists are more than welcome to contact me through either the instagram account @venomousfeathers or via the contact section on the Venomous Feathers webstore (a classic “exit through the gift shop” stitch-up if I ever saw one, ha).

On that note: I am extremely keen to get Venomous Feathers publications out into shops and distros worldwide, so if you are of a mercantile persuasion please contact me as above.