For his second exhibition at Perrotin Paris, Inner Songes, Jens Fänge presents more than two dozen new paintings as part of greater mise-en-scene that transforms the gallery itself into a human-scale composition.
Jens Fänge’s three-dimensional paintings welcome the viewer into topsy-turvy dreamscapes in which recurring figures, faces and furniture appear to hover over sparse domestic interiors or abstract backgrounds. In addition to using small wooden and copper elements to build and populate multiple planes within each composition, Fänge pushes the limits of painterly dimensionality even further by extending his fictional realms beyond the typically hermetic picture plane and into real space.
Collapsing the boundaries between his artworks and their exhibition space, Fänge uses modified photographs of his framed compositions or snapshots of his own surroundings to create yet another pictorial layer.
Characterized by heavily made-up eyes, thin arched brows and coiffed hair, the androgynous protagonists of many of Fänge’s paintings recall certain portraits by German Expressionist painters like Otto Dix and Elfriede Lohse Wächtler. Certain objects and styles referenced in the paintings corroborate this vaguely 1920s/30s aesthetic.
I try to look at the installation, the mural, the wallpaper as one big painting. The paintings hanging within a mural may mimic what's going on inside the framed painting in one of my smaller compositions. It's an attempt to put the viewer in the same position as my painted characters. The recursion that happens when a painting appears within itself is like a chain of thoughts that serves both as an image of the openness of the mind, and the idea of being trapped inside another reality.
Rather than painting a scene across a single flat plane, Fänge assembles his paintings out of disparate component parts. He paints each individual element—whether cut from a wooden board or trimmed from a thin sheet of copper—separately, often decorating his subjects with intricate patterns that belie their natural materiality. The artist then moves these painted forms around on top of various painted backgrounds until, to use his own words, “the scene resolves itself.”
Fänge’s peculiar use of scale and perspective creates an overarching sense of instability and dream like fragility across his paintings. In many compositions characters that seem to occupy the same physical space appear either monstrously large or ridiculously small, leaving the viewer to wonder which sense of size is “correct” (and whether such an assessment is even useful.) Upside-down figures suggest falling or flying, but it is unclear whether it is Fänge’s subjects or the viewer who might suffer from vertigo.
Giving the impression that certain pictorial elements might slide right out of the composition, Fänge’s off-kilter perspectives evoke palpable sensations of disorientation in the viewer. Yet another way in which the artist’s fictive realms bleed beyond the picture plane and greet us in the real world.
– Text by Mara Hoberman
I like to move back and forth between figurative and total abstract conversation, so for a moment I don't care about the practicality. I like it to be about perspective and the viewing point of the beholder. I like to think of that character not as hanging upside down but putting me in a position where I'm laying on the ground and seeing him from above.
Born in 1965 in Gothenburg, Sweden
Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden
Working at the intersection of the early-twentieth-century practice of collage and the ancient art of shadow play, Jens Fänge has developed a surrealistic matryoshka-like aesthetics that consists of assembling paintings within paintings. A master of eclecticism, he incorporates—so it seems—an entire hierarchy of genres into his composite works, juxtaposing iconic portraits, still lifes, domestic interiors, cityscapes, and landscapes with geometric abstractions, all of which he renders using a variety of media and materials, including oil paint, pencil, vinyl, cardboard, and fabric on panel. The contoured, often cut-out protagonists of the artist’s refined pictorial plays appear to be drifting into these overlapping stage-like layers of representations, giving rise to an intricate, seemingly endless maze of shifting perspectives, not only within each composition but also within each series as a whole.