Moyna Flannigan in her studio; inset: Untitled 2004
Ruth Hedges is captivated by MOYNA FLANNIGAN’s miniature portraits of
oyna lilannigan‘s sttidio is yery white and yery~ quiet. There are two big \y‘indoyy s. a dusty I‘loor. some clutter and a kettle on the ground. But we‘re not alone in the airy space. 'I‘iny little eyes are peering otrt Irom tablets laid otit across two tables and il’ you listen careliully there are whispers. stories and gossip I‘Iying about. 01' maybe that’sjust in my head.
About 50 miniature portraits paint just drying on the yeIIum (a line parchment made from call”s skin) inyite imaginings. 'I'aking the art form which flourished in the l7th and l8th centuries as inspiration. I‘Iannigan has created a whole collection ol‘ people whose characters are secured in the flick of a brush and a dab of crimson across the lips.
Portrait miniatures haye long been oyerlooked. mainly because they’re just so \yee. btit the little ‘tins are worth closer inspection. Much more than large. grandiose posed portraits hung as symbols ol- status. portrait miniatures giye a real glimpse into people's pr'iyate histories. Bel‘ore photography came along to I'rie/e someone‘s features into lyyo-dtlttc‘tisloiial posterity. these i‘niniatui'es cotild be exchanged as tokens of line or to mark a birthday or remember an infant \yho'd died oI‘ten a tiny oyal \yotild become the only record ol- a child's short life.
‘I \yanted to square the circle and bring tiny portraits back to painting.‘ says lilannigan. '.\Iy characters alyt'ays liay‘e personalities. I’ainting can do that you can [rate prolonged engagement there’s a materiality. not just sheen on a surface. The project came abotrt through a collaboration with the Scottish National Portrait (iallery. which has named to hang her yyork bel'or'c btit been restricted by the fact that. \y ell. she doc‘stH strictly paint portraits. All her l'igtrres are made tip. 'l‘hank heayen for small mercies. then. as it
‘ONE LITTLE MOVEMENT OF THE BRUSH CAN TURN A MAN INTO A WOMAN OR A YOUNG PERSON INTO AN OLD PERSON'
\inI noyx be slioyying I-‘Iannigan's modern day creations alongside its collection ol‘ portrait miniatures.
"l‘here are broad areas youth and age: dressing tip yyhich is to do \yith masks and exploring another sell': rites oI passage: mourning and erotica.‘ says lilannigan. ‘.-\nd sometimes I would hate a clear idea about subject
a gay man for example. btrt on that scale. one little moyement ol’ the brtish can turn a man into a \yonian or a young person into an old person.‘ What has been created by design and deIauIt are cameos or people starring in their our] personal dramas: an old. highly made-up lady. scr'aggy round the neck. thinning in the cheeks and pale \yith a blueish tint; a young \yoman. hands on hips. small. bare breasts proudly exposed and a deliant. challenging look in her ey es. lilannigan says she imagined her as a lap dancer and ‘a \toman in charge oI‘ her t)\\li destiny’. 'I‘hei'e are others ol‘ dead people \\ here the pale hue ol' the \eIIum. bar'er ytashed oyei' \\lll1 paint radiate a gliostliness. In one particularly touching miniature. lyyo baby tyyins lie next to each other in their premature mortality.
In a further collaboratiye project lilannigan has \\t)l'l\L‘tl \yitli \yr‘iter. I)ll_\'s Rtl\L‘. lot the catalogue. Rose has \yritten short \ignettes in the mice of the character she imagines behind the portraits. I‘his is an extract relating to the picture aboye:
(iist'l/c I-‘or each bright-ey ed girl lidgeting on the lilac banqtiette ol‘ the danceytear shop she has tyi‘annised l‘or 30 years. (iiselle deliberately plucks otit a \y hole .shoe si/e smaller than requested. .’\s the girls crtish their toes against the bloc‘Ixs and \yince as they rise into ﬁrst and then second position. (iiseIIe insists that she has Iitted them all correctly.
- You Iiaye to \llllc‘l‘ for art. she says. \yithout a .slll'c‘tl til~ plly.
I-‘lannigan has pity and humour and sensitiyity in bounds. It is distilled. here. in miniature.
News flu/Ir “It” trout} or art
Jerwood Photography Prize
SUBMISSIONS ARE SOUGHT for the annual Jerwood Photography Awards 2004, which is open to UKobased artists working with photography and who have graduated from visual art degree courses between January 2001 and September 2004. There are five awards of £2000 each along with an exhibition in the Jerwood Space, London and publication in Portfolio magazine For information and an application form write to Portfolio, 43 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh. EH1 208 Tel: 0131 220 1191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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II. I 72‘.) fit-11,. CONTEMPORARY PROJECTS in association with Olaf Nicolai and protoacademy have organised a symposia taking place at various sites in Edinburgh to explore the process by which artist learn from each other. Privacy: A Programme of Symposia runs from 8-16 May and will discuss ideas to do with the psychology of privacy, surveillance, celebrity and an individual’s need for actual and mental private spaces. For more information contact Mary Minshull on 01132 467467 or email: email@example.com IIII IUIAI, KUNSI I’UIM it fun 1N
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- ;.. '- THE LIST 91