Over the past two years you may have noticed brightly coloured mushrooms popping up on London rooftops, infecting the city with a fungus of colour. No need to question your sanity, just embrace the spirit of street art courtesy of South African artist Christiaan Nagel.
Born in 1982, Nagel won his first art award at the tender age of 6. He also worked under the watchful eye of media artist Fiona Kirkwood, completed a Psychology degree and is certified in Financial Management. From this, he has chosen to make giant mushroom sculptures, which he places strategically around the capital “at night like Batman”. Nagel’s first UK exhibition at Rich Mix offers you the chance to get up close and personal with his trademark Mushies, rather than viewing them from afar on the horizon of semi-derelict buildings from Camden to Hackney. Nagel is more than just a fun guy/funghi, with added artistic delights on show including an interactive element to his new sculptures, paintings and a ‘mushroom vending machine’. Excited by the stalk just around the corner from the i-D office, we caught up with Nagel to find out more.
Why did you choose to focus on the mushroom silhouette? Attracted to its sometimes dangerous potential? Are you a wildlife lover? That’s exactly it, it raises so many questions. Imagine if I did potato sculptures. Now that wouldn’t work would it.
Your sculptures are seen across London rooftops. Did you consider placing them in parks or less urban surroundings? The works are fragile, they would break in seconds if they were in reach of people. They are made from Polyurethane, a very light substance, which makes them safe too! This was very important to me when I was developing this work. Then again this is street art and illegal… so I have to install it where it is hard for people to remove.
Does it offer a new element seeing the works up close? Yes. I have incorporated other more “hardcore” materials, such as resins to bring the works to their full potential. The street works are a quicker, easier version. The gallery pieces are definitely a step up. Come see and decide if you agree.
What materials do you most like working with? Well I absolutely hate resin! I’ve been covered in it for the last few months preparing for this show. I think I’ll exhibit myself as part of the show. The human mushroom.
Which is your favourite mushroom that you have produced to date? The nature of the material is that every piece is unique. There is a part that I don’t have control over, as it expands as it dries. The yellow one that used to be on Brick Lane I liked a lot. I spent a lot of time on that one. It looked a bit like it was made from Cheese Curls (the crisps) and its proportions were good.
At the exhibition ‘DJ Fungi’ will be playing Japanese minimal tech and ‘perhaps a hint of psychedelic trance’. What’s the link there?! Ha ha, I installed a mushroom on his roof by chance. I received a message on my facebook page the next day saying, “dude my name is DJ Fungi and I’ve got a mushroom on my roof, am I tripping?!!” We met, he introduced me to his music. He is a very flamboyant person with a soft temper. His music will def. change the show. I’m all about atmosphere and the set he’ll be playing will complement the setting. Don’t expect a rave though, this is an art show!
I hear you have a few ‘surprises in store’ to show us. Can you give us some clue as to what these are? Works that change with the help of the audiences…tum tum tuuuuum.
Street Art London presents Christiaan Nagel at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road until 20th August.
Text: Paris Bennett