Retro Imagery, Faded Colours and the Vast Universe Combine in these Collages Step into one of Fei Alexeli’s collages and you enter a world of neon lights, vintage-style figures and signs, and dark, expansive starry skies. The Greece-based digital artist had been making her work for fun on the side until she realised she could pursue it full time and left her architecture background behind. Fei’s portfolio is filled with collages that evolve from small seeds of ideas into fully formed explorations of our place in the universe. Her arsenal of pastel hues evoke nostalgia and wonder all in one. After seeing her work at The Other Art Fair in London, we grabbed a coffee with the artist to learn more. THE PLUS: Thanks for chatting with us! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself to begin? Fei Alexeli: I was born and raised in Greece but then moved to UK to study architecture. After that I lived in several places before returning back to Greece. In architecture school I discovered my passion for photography, photo-montage and the power of digital manipulation, and have been exploring these areas ever since. TP: What’s your artist origin story, and how did you get where you are today? FA: I studied architecture in Oxford and London. Always felt a bit misplaced though, like I was almost in the right place. I was making collages before I even started studying, but through architecture my aesthetics changed. The medium evolved, but I never imagined that I could do that for a living – until I was in Amsterdam. I was living there for a few years, after my graduation and instead of making CVs and applications for architectural positions, I was making collages, as a getaway from all the frustration that job applications cause. I had my first exhibition in 2015 in a small concept store, where I sold two pieces. That moment I knew that if I chased this and find myself in the right places, I could make it work. But the real turning point was in 2016 when I exhibited for the first time at The Other Art Fair in London. After that everything just start rolling. TP: What’s your process when creating your collages? Are they digital creations or done by hand? FA: All work is digitally made now. I have a huge library of images, my own, from open sources, scanned magazines, basically from everywhere. Then I open two files in Photoshop and dump a lot of images in one file and things that I might need. This file is the messy one. In the other one, I try to keep it more clean and start placing cut things and have more structure. Then I work on it until I’m satisfied with the end result. TP: What inspires your work? FA: A lot of things, but in most of my work you can see images of the universe. The first time I came across the Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan, it was inspiring and revealing. When I look in the sky and try to imagine the vastness of the universe, how unknown everything is to us, the endless possibilities of things that might exist, I realise we are ignorant and only here for the short term. This creates a sense of relief and helps me put everything in perspective. Nothing is really important; we are simply here to exist and enjoy. I find comfort in this thought and I want people who see my work to relate to this. TP: What’s your basis for each piece- a colour, thought, message, or something else? FA: It depends on the work. Sometimes I start with a quote and then build it up slowly with images that support it, sometimes I start with a colour palette or just a feeling. Sometimes I have a specific image and say, okay, I want to use this one, so it becomes the starting point. No matter the initial idea, though, it always evolves in ways I cannot imagine prior, that’s what I like in collage. TP: What do you do to keep your ideas fresh and avoid creative block? FA: I don’t experience creative block. I mean, I experience frustration of doing a lot of work that does not come together – I have a folder in my laptop named lame! I do believe that most things come at the process, so I always keep making stuff, they just sometimes end up framed in a nice show to be seen and sometimes they go to the unseen lame folder. TP: Tell us a bit about your pairing of vibrant pastels with retro elements. FA: I like to create the feeling of nostalgia in my work. This is happening with the use of retro elements and Americana, like old motel signs and theatres. All the vibrant pastels come of this idea in my head, of the perfect sky, with perfect gradients, feeling like you want to get lost in these colours. TP: What’re your favourite things to do in your free time? FA: I’ll do collages or I’ll travel. I love traveling and if I go to a place, I return with 3000 photos that I need to sort out and edit the RAW files. I try to do this in my free time as well. TP: We first saw your work at The Other Art Fair in London – what are you up to next? FA: At the moment, I have a few small shows in London, and in May I’m going to New York with The Other Art Fair.