Sara Fanelli

‘Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly’ – mixed media illustration

(from ‘Sometimes I think, Sometimes I am – by Sarah Fanelli)


I stumbled across Sara Fanelli’s fascinating work completely by accident a few years ago in the Tate Modern Bookshop.  I was looking for a present for a godchild and picked up her fabulous book entitled Mythological Monsters of Ancient Greece.  I was completely hooked and bought 2 copies – obviously keeping one for myself!

Sara’s graphic, illustrative style of collage is immediately recognisable.  Her backgrounds are often found papers – pages from ruled vintage notebooks – foxed or sometimes already inscribed with old handwriting – or brightly coloured sugar papers onto which she applies found images.  These paper collages are sometimes augmented with, or accompanied by, drawings in pencil, ink or paint.  Occasionally her work consists of pages of text – words, sentences or quotes – in a variety of styles and colours which mix and match fonts, as well as upper and lower case letters, in a seemingly random fashion. Texture, contrast and unexpected juxtapositions of materials -tracing paper, cardboard, photographed or photocopied found objects, paper doilies and torn book covers – all add drama to her work – as does a confident and dexterous use of colour and line.

Her books, for adults and children alike, are similar to scrap-books.  Favourite images, lines from poems, photographs, ephemera, cut out scraps of card or fabric, torn out pages or illustrations from magazines are all thrown into the mix.  The results are astounding.  Odd little creatures – part-animal, part-human, part-divine -populate her pages.  Characters with Pinocchio noses or large heart-shaped heads and tiny angular bodies, trees half-drawn, half cut from textured wall-paper, brown paper foxes with hand-painted wings or white cut-out cats with a black eye-patches.   Funny, absurd and a little bit unsettling – all seeming to belong in the literary equivalent of a cabinet of curiosities.

Sara’s work appears at first glance naive and childlike, bold and colourful, but is actually subtle and extremely complex.  Her imaginary beings – angels, devils, dragons, minotaurs, and other hybrid creatures – along with ink doodles, pencil sketching, pen jottings and crossings out, twist, tumble and somersault,  jostling for attention on the page.  It is a chaotic world and the experience of leafing through the pages is similar to embarking on an unplanned trip to new territory without a map – a haphazard, eye-opening, stimulating and rewarding journey into a personal and imaginative realm.  If mixed media, collage, storytelling or illustration is your cup of tea – check it out.  I doubt you will be disappointed.