• Emma Carney

Intro: Emma Carney

Hi! I'm Emma, Winter Artist in Residence. I'm so excited to share my practice here this month. Big thank you to Natalie and Emily for having me! A bit about me: I'm a Toronto-based painter with an MFA from the University of Ottawa and a BFA from the University of Guelph.


About my work:

My paintings chart conflicted terrains of the everyday. I infuse the bodily with a sense that the geographies of contemporary life are collectively enmeshed in affective states such as anxiety, liminality, and alienation.


In my work I continue to seek out new emotional territories amongst my lived practices and associations. I seek buoyancy, playfulness, and porousness. I aim to shrug off rigid navigational strategies in favour of mobility and an ongoing and affirmative renewal of affective relations.


Past Work:

In August 2019, I presented my thesis exhibition, Ways In Which Things Are Alike at AXENEO7 in Gatineau, QC. This exhibition concluded my MFA at uOttawa. Ways in Which Things are Alike was specifically concerned with the fore-mentioned everyday patterns of anxiety, alienation, and liminality.


I describe my work as post abstraction which is a type of abstract painting that is based on an exploration of social cartographies (this definition comes from philosopher Christine Buci-Glucksmann). Post abstract painters derive shapes, surfaces, and resonances from patterns of lived experience. I like to refer to these as ‘likenesses’ in my work. These likenesses (or resemblances) are the shapes and forms of my day-to-day habits—in relation to the associations (emotional or otherwise) that accompany them. In my work, these likenesses become the starting point of expanding and redirecting how I feel. This is where the title of the show came from. “Ways in Which Things are Alike” is the dictionary definition of the word “resemblances”.


I'll go through a few paintings from Ways In Which Things Are Alike in more detail.



Day Two, 2019, oil on canvas, 24x28"


My painting Day Two is underscored by liminality. By liminality I mean a sense of disorientation that arises from transitions and changes that are beyond one’s grasp, and ultimately unknowable (I think of the term ‘limbo’).


This painting is comprised of an interior setting, a gooey figure, and the moment before an itch is scratched... only it goes on forever. I associate the title, Day Two, with the second day of a shave, an all over itch.


There are elements of cuteness and monstrosity in this painting. I find the affective force of this painting is more a matter of an impasse between different affective states. It is so itchy but has no hands to scratch. The cuteness of it begs for you to be involved.


In this painting I have worked to strike an untenable stalemate of emotional impact that I believe speaks to the omni-presence of being neither here nor there in my everyday experience.


It is a constant waiting for the itch to be scratched.


Partner Yoga, 2019, oil on canvas, 12x15”.


Partner Yoga is about unwanted close proximity to others. I imagine the worst of that; would be; being partnered up in yoga class with someone you dislike. You have to touch each other and its sweaty and you’re expected to relax. Less intense scenarios could take place on a crowded bus, or in a line or anywhere really. It’s about the bodily recoil from having to share close space unwillingly. Bodily contact is intimate. In Partner Yoga I am looking for the alienating parts of touching. The recoil, the shutdown.


The painting has a feigned carelessness. It appears to be made quickly and carelessly. In this case, I associate those movements to the half-hearted, quick, let-me-laugh-at-your-joke-just-to-get-out-of-here-moments.




Nooner, 2019, oil on canvas, 10x12”


To me, Nooner is quietly anxious. What I am dealing with in this painting are the ways in which my anxiety is deeply ingrained on a bodily level—to the point where it becomes so intimate that it is rendered invisible and inarticulate. So, in this painting I have considered how embodied anxiety ‘shows up’ in my every day.


As you can see, the painting presents a body, shadow, and tiles—The title Nooner makes the painting slide back and forth between associations of a doctors appointment and afternoon intimacy.

The anxious form holds vulnerability, regret, melancholy, and distraction. And loneliness too, which is why it was alone on the wall in the gallery.


What I have attempted to do in this painting is reroute the anxiety that I have set up—and I believe I have done this by engaging with the aesthetics of cuteness. Cuteness comes about in my work through awkward, inconclusive, naive, playful compositions. To me, the aesthetics of cuteness produces an unpredictable and complex set of affects. Cuteness elicits adoration and empathy—and at the same time—a sort of dismissal and even cruelty. (Like when something is so cute you want to squeal and crush it all at once). In Nooner, cuteness is used to create an excess of affect. The painting asks to be dismissed and cared for at the same time (the size of the painting adds to this).


I'll leave it there for now! More next week!