The Shock of the Now Issue 39
Featured Exhibition Text
Emma Fineman
'Encounters' Solo Exhibition
4th May 2022

A portrait of Dora Maar, painted by Emma Fineman during her residency at Porthmeor Studio in those uncertain early stages of the pandemic, portrays Picasso’s one-time partner and muse sitting sorrowfully, staring directly ahead flanked by a window frame and wall-mounted crucifix, tears streaming down her face and across her black lace-collared blouse. Maar was, of course, the subject of the problematic Cubist pioneer’s masterpiece of mystery The Weeping Woman, Picasso’s attempt to encapsulate the pain and suffering of the Spanish people during the Civil War. Here, Fineman’s own portrait of a melancholic Maar finds the oft-overlooked photographer, painter and poet evoking not only the death, distress and deprivation caused by Covid-19, but also symbolising Fineman’s self-isolated stay in St Ives, historically a significant safe haven for artists escaping the Second World War.

Previously, many of Fineman’s paintings existed within such interior settings, depicting domestic scenes of figures sat at tables, by bedsides or peering out of windows. Now, however, after we have all endured extended periods of incessant inside time, holed up in our homes, the paintings, bronzes and monoprints at Huxley Parlour appear to entertain that long-lost idea of the outside, and the unexpected, enjoyable or unnerving encounters that come with it. Archways, entrances and thresholds recur throughout, doorways denoting our first steps towards a returning reality and inducing those mixed emotions associated with the easing of lockdown restrictions and those tentative first social events and interactions. The exultant embracing of a much-missed friend or partner is bathed in blinding sunlight, but the anxieties and agoraphobia induced by our two-year collective confinement are never far away. Elsewhere, two figures appear in a sculptural stand-off, either side of that everpresent portal, while another faces down a long open road, stretching into the distance of the exhibition’s titanic triptych. It is all too much for one, in the monumental composite monoprint, who slumps to the grass in surrender, naked and crying, a single lightbulb beckoning them back inside.

One painting’s title, Crock Recursion, referring to the scientific definition for a self-referential infinitely repetitive loop, feels apt for a practice that so commandingly captures time itself. Fineman is able to produce paintings over prolonged periods that still retain an immediacy, with figures emerging from thick impasto, defined by short, sharp brushstrokes amidst gestural swathes of colour that approach abstraction. So too do the monoprints and bronzes contort our expectations of time, their swiftly sketched or endearingly improvisational appearances belying protracted and perfected production processes. Time past, time present and time lost are depicted as distilled or distorted memories that, with time, will fracture, fragment and ultimately fade.