Art Criticism

Jens Fänge: Sister Feelings

Jens Fänge: Sister Feelings (Perrotin, 2017).
Exhibition text published by Galerie Perrotin (Hong Kong), January 2017.

Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong is pleased to present “Sister Feelings”, the second exhibition dedicated to Swedish artist Jens Fänge, following “The Hours Before” at Galerie Perrotin, Paris last spring with a new series of 17 panel paintings (all 2016).

Somewhere at the crossroads between the early 20th century practice of collage and the ancient art of shadow play, Jens Fänge has developed a surrealistic matryoshka-like aesthetics, which consists of assembling paintings within paintings. A master of eclecticism, he precipitates – so it seems – an entire hierarchy of genres into his composite works, converging iconic portraits, still lifes, domestic interiors, cityscapes and landscapes with geometric abstractions, all of which he renders using a variety of mediums and materials such as oil paint, pencil, vinyl, cardboard and fabric on panel. The contoured, often cut-out protagonists of the artist’s refined pictorial plays appear as if drifting into these multiple stage-like layers of representations overlapping each other, which give rise to an intricate, possibly endless maze of shifting perspectives not only within each composition, but also within each series taken as a whole.

Indeed, Jens Fänge’s praxis revolves around the notion of shifting perspectives. He would like us to imagine that all the compositions of his series depict a single scene as if remembered by different people, perhaps on different occasions, ultimately from different points of view, although of course this is never literally the case. While the artist is openly inspired by early Renaissance painting, when linear perspective wasn’t just yet perfectly geometrized, a closer look into his actual creative process is essential to understanding the subtlety of his own perspectival twists. When preparing a series for a show, Jens Fänge doesn’t complete one painting after another. He works on all the compositions at the same time, which he spreads out onto his studio’s floor. The backgrounds of his panel paintings usually receive an abstract dynamic rendering of colorful planes or geometrical forms colliding, which gives a hint of three-dimensionality. Like empty stages, these are only the starting points for the artist’s dramas to unfold. His perspectival twists gradually come to life once he begins moving around and shifting cut-out figures, architectural elements, design patterns, as well as smaller paintings from one panel to the next until they reach in his eyes their final destination. Not unlike plate tectonics, as far as such a radical metaphor can go, Jens Fänge’s overall assemblage process is very slow. Yet we know what seismic shifts end up causing to the Earth’s crust.

Whereas the repetition and variation of akin figures, motifs and patterns create a lingering sense of déjà vu by ways of visual echoes throughout all Jens Fänge’s series of paintings, the bits and pieces of his composite works have each a perspective of their own, which either complement or contradict one another. Moreover, the gaze of his portrayed and cut-out characters also open onto multiple directions, which further complicate the artist’s puzzling ways. As much as the viewers’ impulse is to fancy possible whereabouts for the protagonists drifting into these intricate mazes of paintings within paintings, Jens Fänge’s narrative developments, if there are any, are inherently perspectival. Whether within or beyond reach, mere vanishing points polarize his representations and with them, their subjects in and out of their frames. Speaking of which, as one may notice, the tips of some cut-out elements sometimes slightly overlap the edges of the panel paintings. In doing so, they bridge, even so discreetly, the illusory and physical worlds. As a consequence, one might rightfully wonder whether the viewers themselves wouldn’t be the ultimate part of Jens Fänge’s pictorial plays, that is, wandering souls shifting their points of view from one piece to the next in search of lost points of convergence.

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