Emma Stern, Fern, 2020, oil on canvas, 152.40 x 187.96, Courtesy the artist


Fern (2020) represents the starting point for subsequent digital variations that Emma Stern executed in 2021. Making sketches and paintings on canvas – only avatar-like – inspired by cyberspace and then transporting them on the web is the practice that characterises her research.

Her interest in technology and 3D has led Stern to investigate its dynamics and structure, especially in reference to the hypersexualised representations of the female imaginary in virtual reality. That’s why the artist focuses her attention on the exaltation of specific bodily traits: in addition to understanding the relationship between reality and virtuality and between the human being and technology, her reflection refers in particular to the similarities between the physical and digital dimensions. In a virtual world designed for the most part by men – recent studies conducted on a global scale reveal that only 8% of those who work in programming are women – the artist’s work, therefore, draws attention to the reasons behind the choice of promoting certain types of avatar, prosperous and seductive, comparing not only the physical identity with the virtual one, but also certain concepts of the self with respect to everyday on- and off-line life, which are absolutely superimposable in the logic that governs them.

The choice of the portrait favoured by Emma Stern is therefore functional in exploring these aspects, while at the same time maintaining strong links with the pictorial tradition. If, on the one hand, the features of her muses refer to the shiny world of avatars – at times a little fairy-tale, as in the case of Fern – on the other, they retain many suggestions from the past, filtered, of course, by the new concept of contemporary muse produced by 3D reality and the culture of videogames. After all, there is not much difference between what moves the virtual world and what lies behind the real one.

Cover image: Emma Stern, Fern, 2020
152.42 x 187.96
Oil on canvas
Courtesy the artist