Emma Fineman’s paintings (often oil on canvas) are, quite broadly, pictorial representations of time in contemporary culture. We live in a moment where our perspective of temporality is distorted, with instant mass communication of world events, and the rendering of images and memories within a digital space, creating a kind of cognitive dissonance–being at once near and distant.
This inundation affects our ability to place events within existing frameworks of time and perspective. Fineman is interested in this speed of today’s culture, how it affects the genesis of new memories. It is this fractured sense of time (and the way that it is perceived) that Fineman attempts to interpret through gestural marks that, Fineman says: ‘sit somewhere between drawing and painting; between the quick note-to-self one makes in order to jot down an idea, and the more prolonged meditation on the parts of daily life that, for some unknowable reason, affix themselves to the back of one’s mind and kick about with an unnerving permanence.’ Fineman’s works certainly have a sense of both haste and permanence: bold, heavy marks seemingly being applied to the canvas with great speed–set down, perhaps, before the memory fades.
In her representations of people, too, the artist renders faces and figures as if they were dwindling visages, a memory of a memory, their solidity waning into the background and their eyes, noses and mouths–each once so defining a feature–are devolved into visual renditions of an uncertain recollection: ‘he had a long nose, thin lips, and his left eye hung lower than the other, with a heavy, drooping eyelid.’ In 1993, postmodernist philosopher Jacques Derrida devised the concept of ‘hauntology’–a term attempting to describe a state of being which cannot sit within our predefined temporal or ontological framework, represented by ‘the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive.' Fineman’s paintings can be said the be hauntological in a way. Memories are ghosts of events, unmarred and unaffected by time, with no physical embodiment; the act of attempting to create a visual representation of time or a memory belies their very nature. And so, instead, Fineman deftly creates works which cause us to consider time as a distinct entity–ghostly and omnipresent.