Nicholas Hatfull’s work revolves around metaphors of contemporary consumption, offering the viewer pre-digested nuggets of art history and modern life in an approximation of the dynamics of fast-food culture. Hatfull is interested in what, how and when we eat, connecting contemporary foods to painting. The large relief shown at Open Heart Surgery references globalisation in Hatfull’s habitually idiosyncratic manner, juxtaposing, in the artist’s words, “the empire-like expansion of Prêt a Manger’s convenience coffee, and Italian bar culture’s resistance to coffee-to- go.” Continuing a series of recent wall-based reliefs that present enlargements of industrial packaging and stylised suggestions of vegetation, the work combines the aforementioned corporation’s plastic cutlery with a recreation of the statue of an Ethiopian coffee-farmer the artist chanced upon in Rome, and the primordial scene of a lake and bear that constitutes an Italian restaurant’s logo. This evocative arrangement is intended in part to resemble roman trophy reliefs, which displayed the arms and armour of recently conquered provinces. Here, and in previous works, Hatfull’s lyrical associations bring competing cultural values into uneasy coexistence.
Foreign shores and stimulation recur in a series of paintings made in 2009 and 2010, where beaches mingle with motifs of ovens and pizzas. This cultural scavenging coalesces into a harmony that is as much to do with rhythmic composition as narrative association. In Melonebidone, black tentacle forms poke enigmatically into the sky as a striped beach ball floats in front of sand and sea, in the midst of a washed-up heap of leaves. Hatfull’s distinctive style of abstraction unanchors the debris of company branding that drifts into his art from its banal existence. Everyday vernacular is transformed with rakish simplicity into symbols of an underlying reality.
In 2011 Hatful grappled with Peles Empire’s wallpapered exhibition space, which conjures the hallway of an extravagant Romanian castle. The show, Il Bagno, included screen-prints enlivened by hovering details of Federico Fellini’s dream drawings and symbols plucked from Michelin Guidebooks, used to designate the pertinent attractions of particular hotels and restaurants. A variety of stains are discernible on their surfaces. Less densely populated and more muted in colour than his earlier paintings, this series has an appeal that speaks, as Isobel Harbison has suggested, of a “thoroughly modern odyssey, as Hatfull nimbly steers his works through the ubiquity of graphic symbolism towards something quite new and adventurously undetermined.”
Nicholas Hatfull was born in Tokyo in 1984. He studied at the Ruskin School of drawing and Fine Art, 2003-2006, and the Royal Academy (Postgraduate diploma), 2008-2011. He was the Sainsbury Scholar in Painting and Sculpture for 2011-12 at the British School at Rome. Previous solo exhibitions include Solo River Grave and Il Bagno, Peles Empire 2012 and 2011 respectively; and Ignorant with the Suncream (Seafront Delivery), at Karsten Schubert, 2009. Group shows include re-generation, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome; and Newspeak – British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, 2010.