“Art is what connects me with my family.”
Born in Berkeley, California, Emma is one of the greats. She now lives and works in London, having graduated in 2018 from the Royal College of Art with her MA in Painting, and previously graduating Magna Cum Laude with her BFA from the Maryland Institute of Art in 2013.
Her work is instantly recognisable, focussing often of self-portraits of Fineman within fantastical settings, and confronting intimate spaces of Fineman’s mind, including psychological imagined worlds, reoccurring dreams, desires and more.
The paintings themselves occupy their own realm. Deeply personal and based in memory and imagination, walking the border between painting and drawing.
The sketchy subjects layered by gestural, and incredible application of paint. Time is halted by the paint, allowing multiple narratives to exist and communicate within the frame of the work, so poignant in this era of social media, and endless contact.
"Art is what connects me with my family."
So, my first question... each and every artist has a story of how they became an artist. What is your story?
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be an artist. I’m very lucky because many people in my family are/ were so it had always been such a massive part of my life, and my way of seeing and understanding the world. Art is what connects me with my family.
I love that idea of art connecting your loved ones. So who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them?
I would say that my approach to painting owes a lot of credit to the cubists. Visually it may not appear that way, but the idea that they had, to try and depict objects “in the round” fascinates me. I suppose I am attempting to do something similar through my layered narratives.
Can you tell us a bit about your process, and how each of your artwork comes to be?
I work strictly from memory. I find this way of working to be crucial as it allows me to work through my interpretation of my subject matter and prevents me from merely illustrating what it looks like. I’m much more interested in narratives that lend themselves to discussing the effects that memory enacts on understanding. I enjoy the way that painting allows me to muddy and layer those bits of narrative information so that perhaps a story with a range of perspectives and outcomes may be told.
How has your practice changed with the current world crisis?
I am immensely lucky because I had signed on to do a short let residency at the historic Porthmeor Studios in St Ives in February. I was only supposed to be here for three months, but with the current pandemic that has now been extended to half a year by the time I’m due to leave. Because of this I am still able to work, and in a really fantastic place.
I will say that I find the experience of the current pandemic as rich material to paint from. It is impossible for me to divorce my daily life from the work I make, so I’m finding that everything I am making in one way or another seems to be related to this insane time we all find ourselves in.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Ooh I love this question. I love indulging. In everything, food with out question, swimming, there is nothing more beautifully indulgent than gorgeous swim in a beautiful place. Long hours watching garbage, tiktok flops have become a new favorite. My grandmother would have said ice cream, and I’d have to agree with her that ice cream is a true gift. Oh! And kissing, what a wonderful way to enjoy a moment, if it’s good that is.
What memorable responses have you had to your work? And which artwork would you like people to remember you for?
There was a guy who came to an opening once, he pointed at a section of the painting that had some flowers on it, and he said, WOW THATS PROPER SHITE. I loved that. He was right, they really were.
I’d hope that people wouldn’t remember me for that tho. It’s hard to say which work I’d like for people to remember me for, I think it’s great when any of the work resonates with people.
What is your dream project? Or are you currently working on it?
It would be incredible to collaborate with some of my absolute favorite contemporary female artists for a show that address the phrase “woman artist” and hopefully redefines what that actually means, or has meant through art history.
I ask everyone these two questions: Who is your favourite historical female artist? and who is your favourite practicing female artist?
There’s so many that are just incredible! Frankenthallers work always rubs my eyes in the best way.
I love Kiki Smith, and Kara Walker. The project that Walker completed for the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall was brilliant.