The ArtCat calendar is closed as of December 31, 2012. Please visit Filterizer for art recommendations.


Brendan Flanagan: Sightlines

Thierry Goldberg Projects
5 Rivington Street, 212-967-2260
East Village / Lower East Side
January 7 - February 6, 2011
Reception: Friday, January 7, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Thierry Goldberg Projects is pleased to present Sightlines, new work by Brendan Flanagan. The paintings conjure up distorted, indefinite figures, ghoulish revenants, and zombie-types, all of whom are situated in scenes teeming with implication, and rife with ambiguity. At once familiar and unfamiliar, the work oozes the uncanny, and viewers find themselves both drawn in and excluded, captivated and unnerved.

Reinterpreting film stills, amateur and stock photography, and advertisements that Flanagan has chosen specifically for their “multivalent references,” as he explains, the paintings seem to point to a narrative that is somewhat recognizable, but not entirely so. In “Costume Party,” for instance, a group of B-movie-horror-film-type figures are depicted, gathered as if for a photograph in front of an array of cartoonish streamers, tables, balloons, and bottles. Mixing the horrific and the humorous, the monstrous, masked crowd seems to be waiting for something, so that a feeling of expectation is created. Meanwhile we, the viewers, are left frustrated in our inability to connect the dots and resolve the story—left only with the unsettling clash of color and the huddled, melting features of the party-goers, to haunt us.

Recalling the tortured, loose style of Oskar Kokoshka, Flanagan’s figures seem to be in the process of falling apart, as though undergoing some kind of terrible metamorphosis. Using highly fluid, watered down paint, pigment is applied in slack, swirling strokes to convey highly disheveled figures on the brink of disintegration. Not only is it the unruly, soupy brushwork that suggests the instability of the figures represented, but it is also the awkward discordance of juxtaposed colors that endow the images with a dissolute, mysterious quality. We see this in “Steps”, where a man is sprawled out ominously on some kind of stairway with a face that seems to be decomposing in a brew of beige and pale yellow hues. It is unclear whether the man is dead, or if he is just relaxing, but the strange pigments of his skin make the scene unmistakably eerie. The diagonal strips of the stairs, while painted loosely like the body, appear to hover above an abstract swash of vibrant teal fading into primary red. Once more, an impression of discomfort prevails.

By painting his figures and the backgrounds in which they exist in styles that appear divergent, Flanagan emphasizes the image’s disharmony, exploring what he himself describes as a preoccupation with the “dislocations of imagery.” Indeed, this interest in the incongruous is highlighted by the way in which the figures are almost incompatible with their environment, and as a result, alienated. In “Bathers,” whose title alludes to the bathers painted by Cezanne and Matisse among others, the flesh of the two women appears more diffuse than the water in which they wade. Similar to the unruffled transitions of varying shades that can be found in digital images, the look of the backdrop is not in keeping with the slick, viscous renderings of the bathers. The clashing of styles gives viewers an overall sensation of dissonance, displacement, and disorientation.

Amid the unease, the incongruity and the clash, viewers are left to wonder what kind of land of the repressed these creepy ghouls have these been dredged up from, who they have come to haunt, and why. Hovering on their canvases like lost relics, the figures resonate in the deeper regions of the imagination, evoking uncanny consternation.

Brendan Flanagan was born in 1983 and currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada. He received his BFA from The Ontario School of Art and Design. His work has been previously exhibited at Charest Weinberg Gallery, Miami; Angell Gallery, Toronto; Mediamatic, Amsterdam; Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver; and Kollektiv, Berlin.
Have photos of this show? Tag them with artcat12652 to see them here.