Fenna Fiction’s collages modernise the cut-and-paste medium, without sacrificing its analogue warmth
Based in Amsterdam, Fenna’s works feature material from her ever-growing collection of books and employ a process she describes as “painting without paint”.
- Ruby Boddington
- 16 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
As a teenager, Fenna Fiction would collect photography books for “no reason besides the fact that I liked the pictures and the colour of the yellowed paper,” she tells It’s Nice That. This was a habit she kept up alongside creating collaged covers for her year planners, and one she picked up again after her BA in philosophy. “In the beginning, I was very private about it because it felt like a childish hobby, glueing scraps of paper on top of each other. But that was also why it was so attractive to me; it was accessible, I had the material and I didn’t need expensive gear or any skill to start,” she continues. Hooked on the practice, Fenna took the decision to go to art school in Ghent to “elevate my practice into something more substantial and meaningful,” and although she didn’t complete that course, today, the medium forms her full-time practice.
Describing herself as a “collage artist”, Fenna works with both analogue and digital forms of the medium, taking images out of her “steady growing collection of old books.” Alongside this, she DJs which is both a great contrast to her visual practice, and an extension of it. What Fenna loves about collage, she explains, is that she never has to start with a blank canvas: “If I lack inspiration I just have to visit the thrift store and search for old books, it guarantees to give me not only new ideas but actual material to use for my work,” she explains.
While her practice is hard to define, “mostly because a lot of times I don’t know what I’m doing,” right now, Fenna would describe it as “painting without paint.” Her projects manifest as graphic design work, but she’s hesitant to call herself a graphic designer: “I need to work as freely as possible because I tend to block when I have to use other people’s material or ideas and incorporate it into a design.” While she enjoys being inspired by something external, she sees herself more as an artist who can interpret briefs abstractly. “That’s why I love to do record sleeves, I can listen to the to-be-released music for inspiration, the design parameters are clear but the possibilities endless,” she adds. “I think that’s the formula that works best for me and keeps me flowing. And it makes a lot of sense that my work is great in accompanying music, it is both abstract and has the possibility to be otherworldly yet familiar.”
This notion – of the otherworldly yet familiar – is an apt description of Fenna’s portfolio where recognisable objects morph with manipulated imagery and textures. She’ll often take something from a modern painting, for example, and contrast this with a glossy shape made by a scanner. In turn, her work is collage, yet a contemporary and clean take on the traditional cut-and-paste medium but which retains the warmth of its analogue processes.
A recent commission which combines Fenna’s graphic design output with her love of interpreting music was for Draaimolen, a Dutch electronic music event. “I always build up collages for the events by choosing material that has romantic connotations, references to nature, flowers, etc,” she tells us. “Especially since most of their events take place outdoors, I try to reference the surroundings, albeit in abstraction, in the posters.”
Some of her favourite works, however, are the ones she produced in preparation for her graduation at the Sandberg Institute a year ago. A fully self-initiated project, it’s one Fenna cites as allowing her to reach “a certain new level of image making” because she wasn’t restricted by a commission. They act as a form of visual poetry, conveying narrative and meaning but without words, perhaps even transecting the possibility of being interpreted textually. “I created warped dreamlike landscapes, where the surroundings feel familiar but with a psychedelic uncanny-ness, both thematic and material-wise,” she describes of this series, one which she champions for its ability to “show me the possibilities of collage.”
Not one to settle though, for now, Fenna is taking some time to rethink her practice. “I have the feeling that there’s so much more to explore within the medium of collage and it feels as if I only touched upon a small part of what I can do with creating 2D works,” she says. “So I want to keep on experimenting and making, and expand my work beyond creating flyers and posters,” concluding, “I’d love to create more autonomous pieces and hopefully I find the right mindset to do that these coming months.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.