Moyna Flannigan, in her first solo exhibition for Ingleby, showcases nine recent artworks, paintings, collages and works on paper alongside four sculpted figures. The Edinburgh-based artist has drawn from images both historical and contemporary. Mixing mythology and popular culture, each artwork is reminiscent of a dreamscape in which the fragmented memories and experiences of today get sifted through and connect with the personal memories and collected images of a lifetime.
The ground floor gallery space contains eight interconnected artworks and four sculpted figures. One additional work is situated in the stairwell and another ‘bonus’ work can be viewed upstairs in the Feast Room exhibition space. As well as the artworks, there’s also a limited edition artist’s book available to purchase.
Moyna Flannigan studied at Edinburgh College of Art, before receiving her Masters at Yale University School of Art. She then went on to lecture in painting at Glasgow School of Art as well as becoming a Teaching Fellow at Edinburgh College of Art 2015-19.
MATTER offers an opportunity to view some recent collage works from 2020-21 and see how they have informed further painted artworks on the same theme. Flannigan introduced collage into her work in recent years, including in a group exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2018-19. The exhibition title is a word the artist wrote on a piece of paper, pinning it to her studio wall last year.
The word ‘matter’ increasingly drew Flannigan’s curiosity during this pandemic. It can seem both specific and general in different contexts. We can think generally of the physical matter of the body or the tactile materials used by artists, or associate it with idioms and phrases such as ‘what’s the matter?’, ‘matter of fact’ etc. Also, it can be used both as a noun and a verb, lending itself to multiple definitions.
The year 1963 is a significant year in the mind of Moyna Flannigan – as well as being her birth year, it was a year of dramatic events which dominated popular culture images. Here in these works, we can see obvious and not-so-obvious visual references to 1963 as well as images and memories which may be more personal to the artist.
Flannigan’s figures are typically women: they are long-limbed figures whose poses and gestures dominate the landscape. Here they inhabit a landscape in which their detached gestures, limbs and expressions are significant details that make up the whole picture or form a narrative. This feels dreamlike and similar to how we conjure up memories in our minds. The figures exist in a landscape of iconic visual forms and gestures running in the background or floating around the picture space – from films and fashion poses to more abstract forms and shapes. There are some motifs too: scissors; the word STOP; a woman-insect hybrid. Gestures of bent arms and legs could also suggest lyrical poses and movements. The limbs are collaged from her own drawings and repositioned to inhabit the new landscape of the paintings.
The works here are mostly made from what Flannigan calls ‘humble’ materials: plaster, paper, distemper, gouache. The female forms here are fragile with delicately observed detail in both the sculptures and the artworks. However, the artist purposefully offers a sense of immense strength within the vulnerability. The works have a distinct style that you can be sure is part of a series.
This exhibition shows directly how our experiences connect and collect in the mind. Yet, it also visualises that network of image connections that bubble under the surface of consciousness, and collective consciousness. We are gazing at different planes in a landscape, capturing both the uneasiness and familiarity of recurring memories, images of the female form and shapes which explore and question archetypes. The collage work feels experimental and endlessly engaging whilst the paintings offer unified works which are highly accomplished and harmonious.
With grateful thanks to Julie Boyne for this review.