Death metal and Modernism might not immediately appear the most analogous forms, but to Neil Clements, they share the same romantic ideal: purity.
Since graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 2004, Clements has shown extensively—at the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Fridge Gallery, Glasgow, Galerie Markus Winter, Berlin, and Konsortium, Dusseldorf. In each show a developing fascination for a perceived nihilistic value of metal and Modernism can be witnessed.
Death (or black) metal is about noise, destruction, and taking things to the ultimate, extreme conclusion: drumming as fast as possible, no verses or choruses, shouting, untuned guitars. The aim was purity. Put against the clean lines and pure colour of Modernism, as Clements does, it seems antithetical. However, Modernism’s fetish for reducing colour and form to their essential, springs, Clements believes, from the same ideal of purity as a possibility.
He observes what he describes as nostalgia for such a belief, and by juxtaposing it with different painting styles and death metal, hopes to suggest the sentimentality of that view. ‘I work on things concurrently—soundpieces, canvases and steel’, he says. ‘They all feed into each other, and reference back to each other.’
His recent show at Konsortium featured two canvases in the shape of ‘explorer’ guitars on opposite sides of the room, one black, one white, entitled together ‘Revelation of Doom’. This conflation of Modernism and death metal is humorously teased in the overly dramatic title. In spring 2007, his show Paranoid, at the Fridge Gallery featured a neon-fenced portrait of op art’s Bridget Riley, and Black Sabbath’s album Paranoid at a third of the original speed.
Clements explains, ‘The idea of Modernism is fatalistic and romantic, and black metal is very theatrical’. Adding a dramatic twist to the Konsortium show, he included a dry ice machine which pumped atmospheric, disco-like clouds into the gallery.
Steam and its elements interest him and he is currently working on a series of paintings on small sheets of steel for doggerfisher’s forthcoming group show in Edinburgh. Inspired by the work of American sculptor, conceptual artist, and writer, Robert Morris, Clements brushes wide strokes of thin oil on to steel, suggesting changing elemental states. ‘I have an interest in the hazy black and white images of Morris’s work, and the fact that they don’t exist any more. I want to draw them back into art,’ Clements says. He?adds, ‘I’m interested in the point where things become liminal, and are transformed into steam’.
Despite Clements’ proclaimed interest in liminal states, he remains rooted and well-supported in Glasgow. ‘There’s a good atmosphere for making work in Glasgow, a good critical atmosphere’.
Ruth Hedges is a writer and radio producer based in London