THE STANDARD: How did the idea for "Portraits Happenings" initially come to you? What were your main inspirations?
FAFI: After spending months alone in the studio during the pandemic, I had time to think about my work as an artist and to find new ideas. I started to offer portraits in a little village called Gethary as a test run, it was a revelation! The pleasure of meeting people, discussing their representation on paper, and adapting my style to that 1-on-1 exercise inspired me. I kept creating portraits and even offered them via Instagram: people were sliding in the DM’s, sending me photos of them or their lover(s). I was painting portraits, sharing works in progress, building community and shipping my works all over the world. As I was sending most of the portraits to the US, logically, I thought I could choose a few cities where I knew I would find an audience, the right person to help set up, and the right location…and here we are!
Do you see "Portraits Happenings" as a modern take on the tradition of commissioned portraits?
Totally! Think about the portraits or caricatures made on Place du Tertre in old Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement in Paris — a souvenir that most tourists do because the resulting artwork is often… well, let’s say it, ridiculous or corny. Now think about it with a twist. Instead of posing in front of someone who is going to attempt to make a “realistic” portrait of you and your kids, you have me wanting to capture you as the most daring, sexiest, audacious Fafinette. And it all starts with a discussion and you being open. It’s very emotional for all of my collectors… and me!
How do you prepare for a session, and what are some of the challenges or surprises you've encountered during these sessions?
I want you to have an experience. I want people to be in an exceptional iconic location and cozy environment. In New York, you were welcomed and taken care of by Folake who is producing the event. We'll have this nice little chat and take a moment to breathe before I paint. Finally, you will leave with a nice wrapped-up souvenir, a painting to hang back home.
What has been the most memorable or rewarding experience from your "Portraits Happenings" in Tokyo?
I remember one girl flying from Sapporo to Tokyo to get her portrait done and another arriving from Australia with her suitcase. She disappeared into a room to come back dressed up as a soft and beautiful dominatrix. That was fantastic!
You currently split your time between Paris and Biarritz. What do these two French cities reveal about you as an artist?
They reveal my split personality. I won't describe Paris. Everyone has their own ideas and fantasy about it. Biarritz is the antithesis of Paris. I can watch the ocean every morning. I have access to beauty and nature whenever I want. I won't say anything else; it would be too long to explain.
Your artwork is known for featuring the "Fafinettes," a group of strong, sexy and adventurous female characters. Are the Fafinettes of the 2020s any different from the ones of the 2000s? How would you describe their evolution over the years?
They went from carefree, charming and a bit clumsy teenagers to powerful, protestful and delusional women. They just followed my life emotions along while happening.
Your work often challenges traditional stereotypes surrounding femininity. How do you believe your art contributes to the broader conversation about gender roles and representation in society?
I’d rather say society changed my routine because I don't only draw girls anymore! I totally changed that…! So many people asked me to draw who they love in this life. I was limiting myself to girls because I didn’t know I could draw boys, men, or even pets. It’s just so much fun to do now that I have kicked myself! I am not saying I don't sweat it, and I am warning the person in front of me big time. I am all new to this, but we are laughing about it, and I try my best to have an emotion and feel and give love when I create.
In your "Portraits Happenings" project, you engage directly with your audience by drawing them. What have you learned about yourself and your fans through these encounters?
Now with Instagram and social network engagement, people have direct access to their favorite artists, sometimes to their studio and sometimes even their intimacy. Nowadays, what is the future of an art gallery when their collectors are buying with the only intention of investing in the artist they have been told to and when buyers can bypass the art gallery having direct access to their beloved artist? Maybe hotels are the future of the art business, giving cool and nice atmosphere spaces for people to meet and create unique experiences. I love the idea of being connected and spending a moment together. I very humbly think about “Portraits Happenings” as a small baby joke of “The Artist is Present” by Marina Abramovic… Except the attendees leave with an artwork custom-made for them.
What would a typical New York day (and night) look like for a Fafinette in 2023?
They are high on Fafinette vibrations and go with the flow. They can follow a smile, a sign, or a window display; they like to capture moments, forget about them right after they happen, and have nothing planned.