Meet Soho House artist Emma Fineman
For our new series spotlighting artists featured in the Soho House art collection, the London-based painter and sculptor got candid about messy studios and DIY projects
Thursday 3 November 2022 By Anastasiia Fedorova Photography by Sam Hylton
Soho House’s global art collection is one of the biggest privately owned assemblages in the world. The Soho House Artists series spotlights people behind the works – their practice, life and aspirations. In this instalment, we talk to London-based artist Emma Fineman.
For Emma Fineman, art is a space of absolute freedom. This is apparent in her paintings, where narratives, proportions, time and space dimensions bend and flow throughout her work.
Painting aside, Fineman also works with sculpture and drawings. She is interested in exploring the numerous spaces we occupy in our daily lives – our internal worlds, private rooms, and places where we come together. She is also interested in the materiality of art – the shape, touch and texture of oil paint, charcoal and bronze, and the way they affect the viewer. A Royal College of Art graduate, Fineman is based in London and is committed to exploring the possibilities of paintings in our increasingly digitalised reality. Below, she gives Soho House an insight into her practice, her studio and what she gets up to when she’s not making art.
Where did you grow up and where are you based?
‘I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am now based in London.’
What does art mean to you?
‘It might sound corny, but the true meaning of art to me is total freedom. It is one of the only parts of life that has absolutely no rules. There might be many opinions, sure, but the truth is that anything can be art. In a world full of so many stops, so many restrictions, so many laws, and rules and things that say no, I think the freedom art creates is both beautiful and vital.’
Name three things you explore in your work?
‘In my practice I am very interested in addressing the various realms we exist in simultaneously. Be it interior space, as in the body or the mind, or exterior space, the spiritual realm, etc. Interestingly, we have invented a new realm – the digital one – so this idea of existing in multiple planes at the same time is ultimately not as foreign of a concept as it may once have appeared.
‘Additionally, I’m fascinated by painting’s ability to condense and extend time on one surface, as well as its ability to address multiple points of perspective at once. It is not tied by the laws of gravity, so objects, marks or traces can all sit suspended and play against our perceptive abilities.’
What is your studio like?
‘A bit messy, if I’m honest – I really cannot work in a sterile environment. Sometimes the stuff that gets tossed on the floor and stacks on top of something else can be an interesting jumping off point. It makes me feel like things are in motion. I currently work across two rooms, one of which is primarily dedicated to painting, and the other for sculpture and printmaking. I mostly keep them separate for safety and because paint has a tendency to find its way onto everything.’
What is your favourite art-related memory?
‘One that stands out was visiting the Venice Biennale in 2017. We went to France’s Pavilion and the whole thing was cladded in wood, and it was transformed by Xavier Veilhan. I walked in and there was a musical performance happening. I remember it being a string instrument of some kind. The space really felt like being inside a lung – like you could feel it’s breath as the sound vibrated through the space.
‘My dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer the year prior, and was an avid flamenco guitar player. He loved cigars and I used to love to smell his cigar boxes. Something about being surrounded by wood, like being inside his guitar, or in his cigar box but also in his lungs at the same time made me feel incredibly close to him, despite how far away he was. There is something very powerful about art that has the ability to be that transporting and all consuming.’
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever made?
‘When I was little my cousins and I built a very shoddy go-cart out of plywood with stupidly small wheels. It was dangerous as hell, but we loved that thing.’
What do you do when you’re not making art?
‘DIY projects. I love making things without the same pressures of concept or weighty considerations one makes when thinking of things as “fine art”. I think those distinctions are ultimately unhelpful, but I do feel more relaxed when working on a “craft” project, like making shoes, clothing or rugs.’
Where can we see your works?
‘My work is currently being displayed at Shoreditch Works in London, and I will soon have a large work installed at Cecconi’s in Bicester Village, which is a project that I’m very excited for. Outside of Soho House, I have two shows on at the moment. One is in Spain at Galeria Pelaires in Majorca and the other is at Galerie Isa in Mumbai.’