Phantom Pregnacy, 2022

Zora Mann, Phantom Pregnacy, 2022; Watercolour on paper; 204 × 110 × 4 cm

Deeply personal, yet distorted through the gaze of compounding, kaleidoscopic prisms, Mann’s rich imagery pollinates the mind with subconscious impressions. Dense with the complexities of the psyche, her watercolors can be seen and explored as an emotional map. Adapted from an exercise performed with artist and friend Ken Wahl, where emotions are visualized and depicted independently before being shared, these psycho-cartographic works contain a manifold of references, feelings, stimuli and figures.

In Phantom Pregnancy, Mann’s depiction of envy creeps in from the densely detailed edges of the paper. Symbols of desire and longing converge as references that compete with the empty space of a birthing body that develops in the center of the work. Indicators of growth, like plant cuttings, which themselves mirror the shape of ovaries, as well as double-helix patterns and vaginal canals, give the painting a sense that there could be a life force surging through the details. But with the blunt edge of humor, the artist undercuts this momentum. Mann sees the psychological experience of a phantom pregnancy as a metaphor for the creative process, particularly the “good ideas that just don’t turn out.” Envy too slips into this portrayal of artistic production through the reaching hands that want to cradle the ideas and inspirations behind other artists’ works.