What do I like about artist Christian Feneck’s paintings? Let me count the ways. Maybe it’s the odd, surreal color combinations he chooses—sort of like an anything-but-linear acid trip. Perhaps it’s the meticulous nature of his work—which any OCD-addled person could wholly appreciate. Or maybe I’m just fond of the artist himself—a former architect who took his knowledge of scale and design and incorporated his own kaleidoscope. Regardless, Feneck has created what I’m calling “The Coolest Coffee Table Book Ever Made.” Actually, it’s more than a coffee table book, it’s a conversation piece/work of art—a sort of whimsical, pop-up book for discerning adults. “For me it was an opportunity to move out of my usual process and discover a new dimension of my work,” he says mysteriously.
I caught up with the Fort Lauderdale artist over coffee because … well, coffee. And to get the scoop on the artistic process behind Feneck’s unfolding, 7+ foot long, accordion-esque artsy handiwork—which I have now decided to revise and call “The Coolest, Unfolding, 7+ Foot Long, Accordion-esque Art Book Ever Made.” Uh, he calls it The Unmade Room.
My title is infinitely cooler.
Describe your book—is it coffee-table, art-lover book, all-things-to-everyone book?
“The book itself is an art piece. It is almost a hand-held art installation. My paintings have always focused on our visual understanding of space and color, and until this project, have been non-narrative. Creating a piece within the sequential framework of a book allowed me to explore and design in a visually narrative way.
You can flip through from front to back, start in the middle, open up whole sections at once, or expand the entire 7+ feet in a single running artwork. You are meant to explore.”
It’s super-über exclusive—only 300 printed, yes? Why is that?
“It is actually a limited run of 60. This smaller-ish edition amount came from lengthy discussions with my publisher Ingrid Schindall about the physical production of the book and intricacy of the process balanced with pragmatic cost and final price considerations. Essentially, she let me go nuts on the design. I wanted something sculptural that could stand up. So instead of more typical papers we had to go with a fancy folding board. Usually screen printing something like this uses three or four colors. I did seven. Hand cut elements? Sure. Custom letterpress printed cover? Of course. Hand painted slipcase? Obviously.
This, and the inevitable mountain of prints that were rejected for minor imperfections, got us to this limited edition.”
What’s word on the street been about the book—since its release?
“Very positive, of course! But mostly, as a painter, I have been humbled by the comments from print artists and bookmakers who have been mostly taken with the sculptural nature of the piece. It is good to hear what experts in a different field think about my work. Fine art books is an area that I have had very little exposure to so accolades are surprising.”
‘Fess up—do you have a fave color palette/schemata?
“Kind of. Because this was my first foray into screen printing and inks, I decided early on in the process to use a palette I was comfortable with to be confident the color interactions would do what I wanted. Painting is much more forgiving in this regard as I can adjust colors as I go to craft the effects I want. The color choices in printing have to be made ahead of time.
And for the record, inks are some kind of dark magic.
Acrylic paint is very immediate and straightforward. You mix a color and that’s the color. Inks on the other hand, darken—or perhaps lighten when drying in a few minutes and then again the next day, maybe. And they might become more or less opaque for no reason halfway through a printing session just enough to make you doubt your senses and have to scrap the run. The color mixing phase was more alchemy and exorcism than I am used to and I could not have done it without Ingrid. But, to more directly answer your question, the book is kind of a greatest-hits of my favorite color interactions.”
You’re a published author! How. Does. It. Feel?
“It is eye-opening! Because of this book I have been attending fine art book fairs that I didn’t know even existed. It’s like a parallel world. The new influence has also led me to include some new techniques in my painting.”
Finally, the book unfolds and unfolds and, literally, unfolds some more. It’s practically origami. What was the genesis behind that idea?
“Ingrid was instrumental in helping me find that path. She was familiar with the spatial nature of my work so during our initial meeting she brought out examples of art books that did not operate in a conventional way. I was drawn to the accordion book structure and started there.
For my first draft, I started with a single perspective drawing and then began to extend the spaces on either side. Essentially, I started writing my story in the middle. It continued until I felt I was reaching some beginning and ending resolution—and what resulted was a long running series of perspectives. I then decided where cuts and folds could augment the composition. The next few iterations refined the design until I was happy with it. Like back in my architect days, I built ‘models’ of the book to develop the ideas.”