Tom Fellner: “Thirty-Nine Monster Drawings and One Monster Painting”

Thiry-Nine Monster Drawings and One Monster Painting

Galerie Nicola von Senger is pleased to present, for the first time, works by the Swiss/American artist Tom Fellner.

Artist statement
I often draw onto existing works: 19th century Japanese prints, children’s drawings or old photographs. The prints, which I buy off the Internet, are damaged or faulty and thus uninteresting to the collector. The children’s drawings are works done by my brother or me (my mother had carefully saved them) or by my own children. The monsters are contemporary cultural artifacts made of vinyl, so-called Kaiju or monster toys.

Kaiju are collected mostly by adults. The figures are comparatively small and not necessarily thought of as toys. They originate with the Japanese monster films of the 1950s, symbolizing Japanese post-war trauma of military defeat and nuclear destruction. Godzilla, King Kong’s heir, is the best known of these monsters. The first Godzilla film was inspired by an incident when a Japanese fishing vessel steered too close to an American nuclear weapons test (Operation Castle Bravo, the largest thermonuclear hydrogen bomb explosion staged by the U.S. at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954). Due to the unexpected strength of the explosion as well as unfavorable weather conditions the fishing boat came into direct contact with radioactive fallout, resulting in the eventual deaths of the 23-man crew. In the beginning, Godzilla was a metaphor for the United States and nuclear threat in general, killing foes with its nuclear breath. In later films Godzilla turns into a positive hero, saving mankind from nuclear attack. One of its enemies, Hedorah (the Smog Monster), an extraterrestrial Kaiju formed entirely of sludge and slime, feeds off industrial pollution and toxic waste. The more waste it eats, the larger it grows. The huge almost formless monster turns land and water into a wasteland. Godzilla vanquishes Hedorah and saves the world and mankind.

There is an active collector’s market for these mostly Japanese and Californian monster toys. The artists/designers of contemporary Kaiju are often connected with the comics, skating and tattoo scene.

I am not interested in monster toys as objects but work from photographs of them which I find on the Internet. I never invent the figures, even the erotic ones are industrially fabricated. My interest lies in their use as objects of projection. I play with them as perhaps a child would. Mostly I work with odd or surprising visual arrangements. A contemporary Kaiju steps into a hundred-year-old traditional Japanese woodcut, a sexually explicit monster invades a children’s drawing, an old family photo is turned into a study of repressed aggression and insanity.

I believe that a monster is a form of hidden self. Children have an instinctual understanding of this. All of us have, at least once in our lives, behaved as monsters.
We don’t like to think about it, but we have all done so. We are very clever in hiding from ourselves that which we do not want to know. Perhaps the repression of our dark aggressive side constitutes the behavior necessary for our survival.

Tom Fellner, 2013