The Art of the Surprise, with Fabienne Meyer

Fabienne Meyer is very good at a breath-taking number of things: Artist, author, illustrator, and co-founder of both a publishing house and the creative studio and PR agency Rooo are just some of the hats she lays claim.

 Perhaps even more impressively, “Bings”- a childhood nickname turned artistic pseudonym - is someone who rediscovered her passion for painting only a few years ago. By her own admission, she grew up in a house “of music and art”- her father is an author, her mother a painter- and was encouraged to explore her own artistic practices as a child. However, she took a different path at university, studying communications and journalism, and only took to the creative arts again a few years ago. 
This return to her creative roots was kickstarted by charmingly prosaic reasons. “When I moved to Berlin,” she tells me, “I had a big room- 40 meters squared. So I wanted big art for the walls.” Instead of scouring the Internet for works to suit her taste, she decided instead to create her own. She would go to a local art supplies store, which provided her with custom canvases she would then haul back home herself. Much like the humble goldfish, or the noble bonsai tree, Meyer’s work grew to fit her surroundings. 


2020, Berlin, snapshots of Fabienne Meyer's studio.

The pieces themselves, however, are far more insightful of Meyer’s inner workings than merely the size of her studio. In her original profile for Pieza, she told us that she gets the greatest delight out of art when it includes  “things that do not necessarily belong together,” something I am keen to get further insight into. She tells me her inspiration comes from random interactions, particularly when humour is involved. She admires things that are “wonderfully weird”, citing the aesthetics of children’s movies of the 1980s, specifically the Goonies and Stand By Me. In fact, her first piece was inspired by a particular scene from Stand By Me, where a character proclaims he could live off of cherry-flavoured PEZ candy. The resulting work, "Cherry Flavor PEZ", signalled her return to the canvas. 

Meyer's style is visually gorgeous, a blend of Matisse-esque forms with oh-so-Jacquemus S/S 2020 bright colors 

Meyer is quick to admit that she was inspired by the current zeitgeist whilst still remaining true to her roots. “I would have painted the same way ten years ago,” she tells me, adding that she has always been “a very colourful person”. With no desire to follow any current trends for minimalism, she delights in surprising colour palettes. Picasso-like, she tells me how she has moved through different colour phases, constantly returning to certain shades of blue and lilac, but always delighting, again, in the surprise interactions one can find.
Left: 2020, "Pedicure", by Fabienne Meyer, Right: 2020, "Paw Patch" by Fabienne Meyer

 

This use of colour is an interesting entry to our next topic of conversation, which is in her choice of medium. Meyer began working in oils, shunning other mediums such as acrylic in order to remain true to her traditional roots and training. However, as with so many of us, everything changed with David Hockney. The artist who famously came out in favour of using digital painting techniques, producing entire exhibitions through his smartphone and iPad, inspired Meyer to also venture into the digital word.

It is, after all, as she freely admits, easier, cheaper, and provides more opportunity for experimentation, without having to invest in a great deal of expensive oil paint. However, what I find fascinating is her distinction between her works in oils. I expected, perhaps naively, that oils would provide a more deliberate approach, a traditional medium where she could take her time. However, Meyer takes the opposite view. She finds that she can be more free in oils, in part due to the size of her canvases. She talks about her need in oils to capture a single moment, relying on serendipity and avoiding as much as possible “overpainting and overthinking”, as she puts it. In the digital sphere, she finds herself providing more context, and takes more time with her pieces. “It’s a good balance”, Meyer tells me. One of her fully digital works is a charming children's picture book, “Der Tapeten Tapir”, published last year, which Meyer tells me was created entirely with an iPad. Unlike the fleeting world of her oils, the digital sphere here enabled Meyer to create an entire world and a much more detailed narrative. Interestingly, this approach is somewhat echoed in Hockney, who also delights in using the digital world to focus on details that can only be appreciated through quite literally zooming in

One thing I find myself compelled to ask is her feelings on chairs. For one of her works displayed on  Pieza, “Wobbly Chair”, she provided the caption “chairs are so aesthetic”. It would be remiss of my journalistic integrity not to inquire further, so I do.

Meyer tells me that she views the humble chair as a lightning rod for artists: after all, as she says: "all designers have their chair”. 

From Eames to Le Corbusier, she is, naturally, completely right. I inquire as to whether Meyer has her own chair; she tells me she has several. “For my apartment, I’d definitely have something classy. But in my art? It’s never realistic.” Reminiscent of poor Barbie, she describes how the chairs featured in her work “probably couldn’t even stand up”, but are instead celebrations of colour and form, describing her “Wobbly Chair” as resembling a human body in its tactility. 


2020, "Wobbly chair", by Fabienne Meyer

 

This mention of touch, of course, brings us inevitably to the elephant in the room that is this year of our Lord, 2020. How has she been coping with the lockdown? (At time of writing, Germany had just entered a second partial lockdown). She tells me that during the first wave, whilst many of us were baking banana bread and bingeing Tiger King, she decided to co-found a PR and design agency. Rooo-a clever name derived from acronymising Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay “A Room of One’s Own”- seeks to provide space for both Meyer and her clients. She freely admits the timing of it wasn’t easy, and speaks of the loneliness that comes from founding an agency primarily in a digital space, but is also sanguine about the potential setbacks. “Clients come back”, she tells me, “even in a pandemic.” Instead of focusing on the negatives, she speaks enthusiastically about the upsides to being forced into taking one’s time starting a new business. Whilst she relies on speed for her artistic work, delighting in capturing a moment without overpainting or overthinking, Rooo has provided Meyer with an opportunity to take her time. The greater sparsity of clients has proved Rooo with the ability to be more selective, and only take on the projects that they truly believe in. Meyer is also quick to emphasise that this more curated approach also enables them to dedicate their efforts to truly fun projects. 

As to what’s on the horizon for Fabienne and Rooo? That does, inevitably, rest on what the wider health community dictates. She’s hoping for a physical space for Rooo, somewhere “ideally industrial, where people can collaborate”. In a refrain that is sounding increasingly familiar as we reach the end of this plague year, Meyer is keen to escape her current space limitations, saying that she’s desperate to free her own creativity. Pandemic-willing, she wants to paint more series (see some featured on the Pieza website!) and exhibit more of her work. One thing’s for certain, however: whatever 2021 holds, with Meyer at the helm, it will undoubtedly be surprising.

Catherine Buckland

Catherine Buckland

Catherine Buckland is a freelance writer and curator currently based in Amsterdam. She became involved with Piezā after a happy accident in postgraduate accommodation placed her in the same building as Carolina.



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