Moyna Flannigan – Girl With Tear

I decided that she is my style icon forever, with her rigour and her dedicated look, her tightly buttoned shirts, her unimaginable combo of being harsh, ascetic, mighty and slightly coquettish at the same time.

[Nadia Tolokonnikova speaking to Vogue Magazine about the Russian revolutionary Vera Figner.]

Moyna Flannigan
Girl With Tear
23 March – 18 May 2019

The second exhibition at A-M-G5’s space in Oxford House focused on three representations of a single female image created by Moyna Flannigan in 2017. One was constructed out of cut paper coloured with ink and gouache, the other two were translations of the collaged image onto canvas using distemper (an emulsion made from warmed rabbit skin glue and pigment).

Flannigan reinterprets and reanimates the female archetype – goddess, moviestar, supermodel, protest singer, revolutionary – to create a new order, a re-mediation of an old content. The face, her image tells, us has many roles. It is a sign of identity, a vehicle of expression and a site of representation. It masks the self.

A taxonomy of body parts is used in the collage but their destiny is directed by a chance-driven working process. In taking on a new life as a collage, the images also refer to the location of forms in space: harmony. In doing so they become like icons which remain untouchable in the memory. They feel as if they have always been there. The accumulation of fragments of drawings are markers by which the work stores time. This process is simultaneous and ongoing: the collage is paradoxically “live”.

Moyna Flannigan, September 2018.

Flannigan’s piecing together of the image reveals the structure of expression through form. Its translation into different drawing media amplifies its message by introducing a change of pace, scale and pattern. Hands and eyes are exposed as the most explicit sites of expression and concealment. Here it is the hands in particular. One – disembodied – points from the left of the picture. Behold! Pay attention to this. A second has/holds a black digit pointing upwards – an index finger admonishing silence, or a lipstick about to be applied? The third (gloved?) seems to protect what it advertises. Colour is kept to a minimum, predominantly yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, white and black, but with subtle variations achieved by mixing in variations of the principal hues.

About ten years ago I was watching a lot of European films – Fellini, Pasolini, Herzog, Tarkovsky – and I became interested in space in film and time in film, and how they differed in painting. A film does something and it has real time in it and a painting doesn’t, it’s a kind of dumb thing that sort of sits there, although time is embedded in it, I think, in a number of different ways, in the material itself and its layering over time – and I am not talking about how long it takes you to do it – it’s to do with that passage of one layer over another and this almost creates a sense of pressure that time is embedded in. David Joselit talks about painting being a kind of time battery that can store time and release it slowly.

I think that you need to spend a lot of time looking at a painting and let it come to you, and then you experience it in a different way. Isabelle Graw talks about what she calls the material register of the work as the site of meaning. This struck a chord with me because in a way you have to get beyond the idea of surface and somehow absorb yourself into the material of that and that reveals something else over time, ideally. Philip Guston said that in great painting you are taken straight to the image without being aware of the surface, you are drawn onto a kind of metaphysical plane. I am interested in where this image is, because it is not on the surface. Actually it’s somewhere else.

Moyna Flannigan in conversation with Susannah Thompson at A-M-G5, 17 May, 2019.

Moyna Flannigan lives in Edinburgh and has a studio in Dunbar, East Lothian.

Girl With Tear is now the subject of a limited edition book published by A-M-G5 and including a text specially commissioned from Lauren Dyer Amazeen.