Emma Fineman’s Ghostly New Paintings at PUBLIC Gallery Stir the Soul

Switch, 2019, Oil and charcoal on canvas

Emma Fineman’s latest solo exhibition entitled Realms of The (Un) Real explores various realms of ontological space, be they physical, remembered, eternal, dream-like or fetishistic; all existing within a world void of temporal constraints.

Upon walking in to PUBLIC Gallery an expansive horizontal triptych in the centre immediately grabs my attention. The central part of It Brings Back The Lost As Though Never Gone… depicts a seemingly idyllic countryside in which sun drenched fields bath in a pinkish sky dominated by an almost exploding sun. Yet there is a feeling of the uncanny embedded in the piece, most overtly by a black, ghostly rabbit who dominates the foreground of the canvas. Assuming the role of a Grim Reaper this ghostly figure echoes the side panels, in which poppies rapidly sketched on a black background enshrine the landscape, all eluding to an afterlife and enhancing the underlying anguish of the piece.

It Brings Back The Lost As Though Never Gone…, 2019, Oil and charcoal on canvas

Fineman’s other painting’s hang scattered on either side of the triptych, revealing intimate windows into the artists mind — reoccurring dreams, fetishized desires and vast imagined psychological spaces. Within these fantastical settings the figures, for the most part self-portraits, are rendered as dwindling visages neither present nor absent, seemingly at the intersection of existence.

Install Shot, Realms of The (Un) Real, PUBLIC Gallery, 2019

In all of Fineman’s canvases the artist explores methods to fracture and reconfigure pictorial space, as a means to describe and digest the dense compression and spacialization of time in contemporary culture. In our moment we are inundated with visual information rendering our ability to understand and process experience, as well as our sense of time and perspective, haphazard if not indeed skewed. Fineman’s works contemplate what happens to narrative under such conditions and examines the possibilities of figurative painting to both extend and compress descriptive time within this framework.

“I would definitely say that as far as narrative, the work is largely up for interpretation, however I would say that it is my intention to call attention to the gaps in our perception. Painting has this amazing ability to present images in such a way that upon first looking you can read the work and feel a general sense of understanding, but the longer and closer you view the individual parts, the more things shift and jumble. I like to reveal those gaps slowly. I am also interested in showing multiple points of perspective in one image as I feel that this is how life is, and viewing things as black and white serves as a complete disservice to everyone involved.”

Shadow Play, 2019, Oil and charcoal on canvas

The exhibition’s title alludes to The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, a multi-volume fantasy manuscript and body of illustrations produced over several decades by the reclusive artist Henry Darger (1892–1973).

Henry Darger — Image via Huffington Post

Like Darger, Fineman’s sources lay deep in her memory and in that unknowable region of the psyche where yearning, aspiration and an expressive impulse reside. However, Fineman’s paintings go beyond pure fantasy, instead depicting realms of eternity that blur our traditional conceptions of what is real and unreal, mirroring our increasingly distorted experience of contemporary life.

Belonging to a realm unto themselves, Fineman’s paintings become a space to contemplate and to reflect. Her internal desires are played out in a series of expressive and gestural marks that sit somewhere between drawing and painting; somewhere between the quick note to jot down an idea, and a more prolonged meditation on the parts of daily life that for some unknowable reason affix themselves to back of one’s mind and kick about with an unnerving permanence.

Stargazer, 2019, Oil and charcoal on canvas

Exhibition Dates: 6 March — 30 March

For more information contact: hello@publicgallery.co

Emma Fineman:

Emma Fineman (b. 1991, Berkeley, California), lives and works in London. In 2018 she graduated with an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Painting from Maryland Institute of Art in 2013. Among other awards Fineman was a finalist of the ‘John Moores Painting Prize’ hosted at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2018) and was selected as one of the ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’ exhibiting at The South London Gallery (2018). Other notable exhibitions include: ‘FBA Futures’, Federation of British Artists, London (2019), ‘SURGE’, East Wing Biennial 13, Somerset House, London (2018) and ‘RBA Rising Stars’, Framers Gallery, London (2018). Upcoming exhibitions include a solo show at BEERS London (2019) and a group show at Huxley-Parlour Gallery (2019).

Freelance journalist covering fine art, photography, film and tech. UK based

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