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Emily Flinn found joy in her Stomach Ache

Artist’s most recent exhibit an exploration of culture, heritage and food

4 min read
Woman stands in front of two prints hanging on the wall.
caption Emily Flinn's exhibition Stomach Ache opened at AlterEgo's café on Wednesday.
Ben Dornan

Stomach Ache is a deeply personal exhibit that all started with a painting of noodles.

Halifax artist Emily Flinn put a lot of herself into her most recent exhibit. It’s an exploration of her cultural identity as an adoptee from Vietnam who grew up in Canada.

“This specific work kind of came from a very arduous painting process,” said Flinn at the exhibit’s opening.

“I did a painting of a bowl of noodles and I really loved doing that so much.

“I really want to have fun instead of being so sad about all of these feelings all the time.” She said she felt guilt and shame around being disconnected from her Vietnamese heritage.

As an interdisciplinary arts student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Flinn described her ability to confront those feelings through her art. The freedom to work in multiple media led her to explore intaglio, a type of printmaking using a metal plate, typically zinc or copper.

“You etch into it with either a needle or in an acid bath,” said Flinn.

After finding joy in her painting of noodles, but getting “lost in those paintings just trying to figure it out,” Flinn switched to intaglio. She used the medium to go deeper into themes of culture and food. The result was Stomach Ache.

The exhibit, located at Alteregos Café on Gottingen Street, had its official opening on Wednesday. Flinn greeted about 20 friends and family who had come out to see her work on display.

“I latched on to the one thing I found really fun about [the painting] project and ran with it really hard.”

“I was thinking a lot about the ways in which foreign cuisine is seen as both exotic and also repulsive to westerners, whether or not it is deemed palatable or authentic,” she said in an email.

Flinn wrote that she has a more nuanced relationship with the subject, and so does her art. Starting from a place of knowing little about Vietnamese cuisine, she integrated her experience of learning more about it with the process of creating art on the subject.

For example, she learned how to make pho, a Vietnamese soup, which was her inspiration for two prints in Stomach Ache, bone broth i and bone broth ii.

Flinn produced eight prints that now comprise Stomach Ache. But this process was about more than just the product, says Flinn.

“This body of work is kind of about having fun” and “having a bit of forgiveness for your younger self.” Through this work, Flinn said, she granted herself a cultural identity that she previously felt she didn’t have.

Among the works in the exhibition are bone broth i and bone broth ii, pictured above, breakfast lunch and dinner, slurp, lunch special, and come again soon, pictured below.

Stomach Ache will be on display at Alteregos until Nov. 30. It’s there as a part of a year-long series by Eyelevel Gallery called AlterEye Café Works.

Each month, a new artist’s work is displayed at the café, giving emerging artists in Halifax the opportunity to “exhibit art where people actually are,” said Eyelevel co-director Sally Wolchyn-Raab.

Wolchyn-Raab said that since Eyelevel doesn’t have a physical gallery, its goal is to make art accessible to people without having to go to a museum or gallery. Having begun in April 2023, the series will continue until March 2024.

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About the author

Ben Dornan

Ben Dornan is a student in the master of journalism program at King's. He loves writing.

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