Moyna Flannigan paints images of fictional characters who reflect the mood of our time. Her paintings and works on paper cast a critical and often humorous eye on the effects of power on personal, cultural and political identity. Although they have their roots in Flannigan’s keen observation of the world around her, her figures have increasingly developed a mythic quality. Their failings, incongruities or follies are our own, only more spectacular and more compelling.
Flannigan develops her paintings slowly, working on more than one painting at a time. Light and space are created through successive layers of contrasting colours. The image forms after many changes, additions and subtractions.
She does not work from photographs or models but builds an image from a multitude of sources, which are passed through the filter of her memory and vivid imagination. Flannigan’s keen observations of humanity continue a tradition of reflecting human foibles and eccentricities from the art of Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) to the tradition of slapstick. Her recent paintings of women present the female figure on a monumental scale. In 2007 Flannigan inserted her figurative paintings into the collection of traditional portraits hung at Mount Stuart, a stately home on the Scottish Isle of Bute. In this grand setting Flannigan’s paintings presented a probing commentary on the age-old tradition of portraiture.
At the Gallery of Modern Art for the GENERATION exhibition Flannigan draws on the story of Adam and Eve to reflect an underlying conflict between individualism and conformity. Her series of drawings The First People was inspired by sources as wide ranging as Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1425) in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence and John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 Bed-In. The idea of exodus is further developed in a group of large paintings of people on the move through a vast, film-like space. Parallels can be drawn with current events but Flannigan’s painted reality is created from the uncertainty of dream, memory and experience.