Collage artist, model, dreamer and drawer, Adèle Farine is the French girl to follow. From Maison Margiela to Gucci, passing by Acne Studio and Paul Smith, Farine creates sensible collages putting together analogue photographs that she shot herself as well as elements found at flea markets, on the internet or in the street. Burning, tearing or sewing pieces of paper, images and diverse materials, her practice is anchored in craftsmanship. In this interview, Adèle Farine tells us about her struggle with inspiration, her love for vintage magazines, as well as her commitment to finding herself in this strange world we currently live in.
You have been working as a model since you were 19 years old but what is your background when it comes to art creation?
I was born and raised in Paris and was constantly surrounded by culture. My mum took care of my education in a way that she always pushed me to watch tons of movies — she loves Pier Paolo Pasolini and adores James Dean. She has quite classical taste but introduced me to Prodigy as much as Mozart.
I’ve also been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mum kept the first drawing I made when I was 3… I was quite an introvert and had a lot of anxiety but plenty of imagination, so drawing was my favourite thing back then.
Middle school was quite awful as it was impossible for me to focus. I had my head in the clouds, was kind of bullied and everybody kept on saying: “but what are we going to do with Adèle?" That’s why I chose to do a ceramist post-secondary diploma. It was the first time I was good at school. We had plenty of drawing and art classes and it really became part of my everyday life. It wasn’t just an escape anymore. That's also when I learned about collages. When I was in front of a blank sheet, collage was always the best process to get inspiration for a composition, a picture, or a painting. When you're stuck you just need to do something and with collages you can do plenty!
So what inspires you nowadays?
My relationship with inspiration is really weird. I used to have this issue where I would produce something and see way too much of my inspiration in it. I would have phases where I would deeply adore some artists but then my work would feel strange or stolen. I struggle with imposter syndrome and really feel as if I was not legit to do anything. To counter that, I try not to expose myself to things I like anymore. I know it’s weird and a lot of people don’t understand it but it’s really been helping me out. Even on Instagram, I unfollowed artists I like just to be able to create this blank space in my head. What I do now, and I know you’re going to laugh, is that I go and see exhibitions of art I don't like because I find it even more interesting to know why I don't like something.
This is exactly the story of my first tattoo. People always said that I was sweet and girly because of my appearance but I never really felt that way. So I asked this tattoo artist for the thing he most tattooed on girls that looked like me, he answered some flowers and I asked for the opposite. I ended up with a big knife on my arm. To be completely honest, I could not really tell you who I am. It’s not that I don't know. It's just that it's hard to put words to it. It's something I'm working on every day of my life. Otherwise, I'm too influenced and then I lose myself in it.
You now work as a collage artist collaborating with many brands such as Acne studio and Maison Margiela, but when did you begin taking collages as a fruitful practice?
I was already doing collages as a hobby but during the first quarantine, I went to Miami and stayed in a beautiful house with my ex-boyfriend who was a fashion photographer, and we stayed there for 4 months. A lot of brands were sending us packages with clothing to shoot and some of the clients were saying, “Maybe your girlfriend can do a couple of collages.” So I did. That’s how I truly begin to apprehend collages as some legit work.
Then the brands I did collages for contacted me as an ‘Instagram persona’ in order to post pictures wearing their clothes. I will never say influencer because I don't feel like I can influence anybody. But I said, “I don't want to put myself in front because it's just not me anymore, but I like doing collages.”
My first commission was for a fast-fashion brand because at the time I accepted any collage collaboration, as I never really thought that people would get interested in what I was doing. Now, I struggle with a huge conflict inside of me because I work for an industry that is polluting and can be really toxic for women and young girls. I’ve got little sisters, so I can’t help but project that onto them and that’s not the image I want to put in the world anymore. So I'm really looking forward to being able to completely detach myself from this with my collages and my artistic persona!
In your collages, you also use photos that you took yourself, could you talk me through how you came about doing your own shootings?
So my ex-boyfriend used to shoot a lot with a small compact analogue camera. He had a medium format, of course, but during shootings, he would snap some behind-the-scene pics. I always felt like those were more truthful or interesting pictures… The girls were smiling and expressing something. I began borrowing his camera when going on shoots; walking around doing weird faces, and taking pictures of the models I was working with, the set or even the photographer.
Then I began capturing the people that surround me because I think I can catch something in the eyes of someone I love and that’s what makes a good picture. I'm not much interested in the process of doing studio shooting because staying closer to my basic instinct is what I’m cultivating now.
If I have a good idea, I know I can make a collage in less than 20 minutes but if I’m taking more than a week… well it’s never going to happen. And it’s also because I don’t want to lose my spontaneity. I always felt like if you work too much on something, then anybody could do it. Also, I really don’t want to bring other people into the process because then I would just be a thinker and I’m much more of a doer!
It’s true that your collages have this crafty, really handmade feeling to them, why is it important for you to do everything by hand?
I did some collages entirely on Photoshop before but it just kills a bit of creativity. For me, mistakes are the most interesting. Sometimes I put a piece of tape or drop some ink on the side and that’s actually what makes it special. Last month, I sewed some pictures with pieces of paper and fabrics for Margiela. And all of that would be impossible on a computer.
Also, most papers are two-faced with different colours and textures and I love my collages to have volume. I thus collect elements from packages I get sent, books or things I find in shops or in the street. When I lived in New York, there was this bookshop with plenty of one or two-dollar books that I bought as I liked their cover, title or font. To get furniture for my flat there I would go to flea markets and one day I found some beautiful polaroids and made a collage series out of them for the online publication called Borderlines Paper. I also found a box with thousands of newspapers and postcards written in the '50s. There were some love letters, some sent to mothers and I just love the fact that there is a story behind them.
I also bought a huge batch of vintage magazines on eBay and made a cool collage series out of old Playboy and Lui magazines. I love the paper quality and the smell of those magazines.
What about the phrases/poetic sentences that are sometimes featured in your collages?
It’s a way for me to put a date in a secret way. Sometimes it’s the lyrics of a song or a sentence in a book. When I look at old collages from NYC, for instance, I know I was listening to the Pixies in that restaurant and in a flash it just brings back a memory.
You did a series of self-portrait collages, how did you approach it?
The self-portraits began one day when I was bored in my NYC apartment. I don't like getting bored but I'm always kind of bored. That's why I'm moving places. If I stand too long in a moment, I feel weird… Anyway, I had this 3-hour slot, and I’d just bought a twenty-dollar camera pedestal. I began running around the flat naked taking some pics with my point and shooting analogues. I went shooting in the staircase and on the rooftop before remembering that in the States, people are not that comfortable with topless women (laughs). And as soon as I developed the pics I had this idea straightaway because I’d taken all those pictures of NYC's landscape, but I didn’t know what to do with them. So I just cut myself and recreated moments that never happened. They are all my pictures, but, of course, I’ve never been naked in a fire station with a black cat in the background.
What is it like being in front of a camera for yourself and being in front of it for somebody else?
I particularly like myself in the pictures I took, which is strange because I can be very self-conscious. But I think I look better than in any kind of magazine or brand pictures where I just don't look like myself. As a woman in our society right now, being your own muse is complicated. People love shaming girls for being narcissistic. But I'm the thing I want to keep on improving. I want to inspire myself and I'm happy that I can provide for it.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I really want to do a world tour and be able to see everything I didn’t have the chance to see yet. My plan is to travel from my 28th birthday until my thirties. I know that our world is going to change so much because of global warming, and everything that we fucked up as humans. I think this might be my last chance to enjoy the biggest present of my generation: seeing the world as it used to be. I just want to be able to talk, taste and listen to anything our planet has to offer. If I manage to do it then I can die without regrets.
I also wish to find a place in this world where I'm going to feel at home because I don't have a place like this yet. Then I think I’ll have a slow life, going surfing, seeing my few friends, and smoking weed. I also want to adopt stray dogs from the street, and as I’m deeply romantic I wish to find someone that is going to stay with me forever. I think I found it but we never know…