Erin Flannery

Frills and Spills

January 5 - February 12 2013

Erin Flannery’s distinctive black and white imagery again displays a masterful mix of simplicity and sophistication but she regards her new bevy of ladies as manifesting more than an affectionate spoofing of fashionista trends. The characteristic twinkle of humour in the titles aside, their attitudes seem somewhat pensive this time, as if mindful of an inner reality beyond external fripperies. Exceedingly elaborate coiffures dominate each work. The ballooning shapes embellished with curios have an indeterminate, World Culture resonance. Erin sees them as being similar to “mini dreamcatchers, holding bits and pieces from dreams that will float around with [the girls] for life.”  

If we look closely into the turban-like headdresses, we may discern subtle facsimiles of the feathers, beads, shells and arrowheads that decorate the Native Americans’ dreamcatchers. Feathers were believed to be a gentle ladder for the good dreams to glide down while arrowheads bestowed protection. Traditionally, the spider and its intricate, lacy weavings symbolised female creative energy, learning and wisdom. Erin’s beautifully stylized forms and patterns surface and recede like the fitful, half-remembered dreams they signify. 

It is said that a living stream of dreaming runs like an invisible current through the everyday world. Few have the time or opportunity to enter this amorphous, shifting realm. The artist’s studio however, is a place of retreat where all manner of dreams and imaginings are nurtured and given pictorial voice in the creative act. By a gradual process of experiment, accretion and erasure Erin’s characters come into being. 

A femme fatale quite confident of her dream-catching skills eschews the nail chewing Marnie who is pondering her next move. Radiant in wonderment, Queenie Bee has that faraway look in her eyes. Sodden black feathers in one’s extravagant ‘cap’ make for another’s petulant face but the formerly plain Jane is quietly smug now that her true colours are shining through. Access to these damsels’ interior worlds is granted via Erin’s nonconformist approach to image making.  

At almost every level, existence seems to be composed of binary pairs. We recognise the pattern of opposites in nature: day/night, attraction/repulsion, ebb and flow. The significance of dualities resides in the tension between two components, each one being less expressive in isolation. Erin’s work is a veritable embodiment of this axiom. Has it not already been proclaimed that, “Erin Lives in Black and White”? Coupling spontaneity and deliberation, she deftly manages positive and negative space in a play of descriptive and abstract form! Immensely subtle nuances in surface textures and markings contrast the crisp edges of the stencilled silhouettes. Undisguised mistakes like an unplanned drip or an overspray splotch honour the random and handmade. Of her own dream-catching processes, Erin divulges: 

“There is a lot of planning involved in keeping the raw linen bits raw from the beginning. I also went overboard with detail, often wiping errant bits off with the dishcloth. Certain areas are sanded back to tone them down or make them almost disappear then layered over again and again. Some sections were completely blocked out with white paint, some bits spared! I love the addition of the white spotted skin sections - they are almost like see-through frilly lace capes or shawls! The title Frills and Spills basically relates to all the lovely frilly line-work bits and explains the unintentional spills. Basically it’s about the running with nice mistakes and knowing when to keep the good and delete the bad!”


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