Erin Flannery

erin flannery lives in black and white

July 2 - July 16 2011

Self-professed "lover of all things black, white, weird, wonderful and fashion related", Erin Flannery lives in black and white quite literally. She describes her studio, set in the precincts of her family's Northern NSW property, as "my big white box of a room". In preparation to make new works for her second solo exhibition she decided to give the studio floor a repaint of pristine white. "It creates a really positive space," she explains. "It triples the light in my world."

Erin takes control of pictorial space with a remarkable confidence. The exhibition's centrepiece, Monday Morning Latte Lineup on a Large Scale, is a two metre long panel in which a bevy of hip young things strike a pose. Shouldering oversized totes or smart little handbags, it is as if they've been plucked from a sidewalk cafe to participate in an impromptu photo shoot. Attitudes both demure and extrovert are strikingly relayed by the most minimal of means. A masterful mix of simplicity and sophistication, each figurative element has been astutely analysed and then pared down to its essential imagery. The absence of linear perspective, together with flat, silhouette-like forms and the strong contrast of white and black produce a powerful theatrical effect.

A series of 'illusively' rendered portraits - some with a curious single eye - are given graphic definition with wavy stripes, polka dots, a dangling earring or a sassy bow-tie. Of the various hairstyles portrayed, Erin muses, "My Top-Knot girls seem to be copying my own hair these days. I only noticed this after I'd drawn them." Erin pertly challenges categories of high and low art in her use of rather unconventional techniques and media. Vogue femmes are transposed onto linen in a medley of acrylics, watercolour, pencil, ink and aerosol spray paint used both freehand and with hand-cut stencils, as well as scratching into wet aerosol with a fine point. Certain areas are masked off and left completely unpainted - the raw linen contributing tonal and textural interest. Always remaining open to chance while painting, an initial idea may be transformed into something quite different with an over-spray or unplanned blot.

The exhibition also features various 'found objects' that have been creatively recontextualised. Timber leaf platters, with their connotations of bygone parties, and well-used breadboards now incongruously sport her signature imagery. "They are so delicious to paint on," enthuses Erin. "The more used the better!" The chair that came out of the closet also makes an appearance. Glossy black and distinctly 'Dadaistic', its utilitarian purpose has been supplanted with the bizarre addition of a pair of sculpted high-heeled shoes attached seamlessly to the wooden legs. These limited edition pieces are the result of collaborative venture between Erin and sister Deborah, who share a distinctly quirky sense for the absurd.

Reflecting on her new body of work, Erin says, "I think the girls are looking like rather lovely citizens. They seem to be a bit softer and gentler than the last lot... not sure why." The reason may well be a subconscious counterbalance to the fact that Erin and Deborah, both very slight of form, have been expending a lot of physical energy of late renovating an older-style house, pretty much all on their own. Open its front door now, and voila! - one beholds a dazzling white space just awaiting the mandatory touch of black. The abode mimics the visual logic of Erin's striking images to a T! It seems that Erin Flannery does indeed, live in black and white.


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