From Friday 18th November, Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery are exhibiting the mesmerising work of the lesser known artist Andrew Fekete – a former University of Liverpool architecture student who died tragically young in 1986. I managed to wrangle an interview with the sterling gent, Matt McCall, in the labyrinthine depths of the English department; where we had a lovely chat about Fekete, the exhibition and, later, Adventure Time. I’ve left that last part out, though. Not exactly on topic.
J: So tell me Matt, what do you do here at the university?
M: I’m A PhD student in English, doing a doctorate on gender in medieval poetry.
And how did you get involved in this exhibit?
I was involved via the link scheme, that’s a post-grad scheme that pairs students with cultural institutions like the Tate, FACT, and the Victoria Gallery of course. I applied to work on this exhibit because I knew the artist had an interest in Jungian alchemy, it was originally meant to be a ten day placement but it became obvious we needed more hands on deck so I stayed on to curate!
So the exhibition itself – it’s on the work of Andrew Fekete, and myself and I think a lot of our readers aren’t familiar with this artist- could you give us an overview of Fekete, in your own words?
Well, um, where to begin? So Fekete comes to Liverpool in the seventies to study architecture, but he struggles with his mental health and eventually drops out.
He failed the math’s section of his exams, didn’t he?
Yeah, architecture is actually a strange choice for Fekete, he was quite a sensitive person and he preferred writing and drawing to engineering and math’s. Architecture definitely became secondary to his other interests. He painted a lot, often going days without sleep, entering a trance-like state which he painted from.
You can place Fekete alongside more orthodox cubists, which is unusual because of how recently he painted, but later in his life he also painted these weird kind of bizarre landscapes. Andrew was also openly gay, which in the seventies must have been very difficult. When he died in 1986 he was one of the first one-hundred people to die of aids in the UK.
What can we expect to see on display at the exhibit on the 18th?
Well as an artist Andrew Fekete did a lot of different things and he tried to incorporate everything, so at the exhibit we have paintings, small paintings but a lot of big paintings as well, diaries, architectural drawings and poetry- and we hope to provide a space to visitors to engage with the poetry, since you can’t really get anything from poems that are just up on the wall.
And the exhibition is being put on to coincide with a book about Fekete, called ‘A Quest for Gold’. What’s meant by that title, A Quest for Gold?
Well it’s an allusion to the alchemy, Jungian alchemy he was very interested in. It really means enlightenment- a search for knowledge and spirituality.
And what can we expect from this book?
Well it’s essentially a collection of the writings of Andrew Fekete, one thing we don’t have at the exhibition. What’s in the book? So it’s a short novella, which is really more of a biography, called Slice, there’s a collection of shorter essays on his painting process, how he went without sleep for example, an essay on art history, and a very short essay on Jungian Symbology. And it’s nothing ground-breaking but it’s still a luxury to see an artist commenting on his own influences in this way. A lot of the time there’s such a guessing game if two artists or writers are alive at the same time – did they read each other? But here we have Fekete talking about what inspired him for us, which is nice.