Michael Fennel is an exceptional artist who uses a very strange medium to create art – smoke. For the last 16 years he has developed a special technique of manipulating smoke on wooden panels to create mesmerizing paintings.
Although Fennell’s smoke painting techniques remain a well-kept secret, the artist does reveal that “Smoke as a drawing medium is of course fundamentally flawed – it is tremendously volatile and a line cannot be drawn with it, but perhaps more importantly you can easily ignite your paper and burn down your studio! Smoke is a unique medium that is not drawn, painted, printed, rubbed, flicked, blown or sprayed on – so what could we say – air borne? It can create the most beautiful blacks, that are ‘luminous’ and have depth to the extent that charcoal is flat and pale next to it. It an also create melting, nebulous edges and a great range of tones to rival those of photography.”
On his website, Michael Fennel claims to be the “creator of smoke painting”, but clarifies that doesn’t mean he was the first artist to have made the first mark in history with smoke. “I do think in 12 years of experimentation that I have made smoke into a ‘serious’ and sophisticated medium,” he says. “I have been able to find a way of fixing the image securely and permanently even in the dense, dark passages of the works. Contrary to what might be said, these areas cannot be fixed with conventional fixative. Each new piece of work I do in smoke is different from the last, this is due in part to the nature of the medium and my experimentation with it, and also my individual approach to the subject. I always look forward to new ventures with this volatile medium.”
Photos © Michael Fennell