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Christian Flynn: A Rendezvous with Rama 

In Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel, Rendezvous with Rama (1973), a gigantic cylindrical object of alien origins enters the solar system. A group of scientists are sent to explore the spacecraft, they document strange things: vast complexes of geometric structures, an internal sea, crab-like robots. And yet they fail to encounter any aliens, there is nothing they can communicate with. Shortly after the scientists leave, the cylinder slingshots around the sun and departs for a distant star. The reader is left without a clear explanation; the object and its creators remain enigmatic. Fans of science fiction will recognize this thematic device. The black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is another famous example (also written by Arthur C. Clarke with Stanley Kubrick).  The monolith’s purpose and origin are hinted at, but remain unknown, perhaps always unknowable. For if it is possible to explain that which is alien, it is domesticated, and ceases to be truly alien. This is of course a great difficulty within science fiction, and also within abstract painting.

Christian Flynn and I have been friends since art school. Over the last 15 years I have watched his dedicated exploration of the relationships between colour and form develop into a captivating universe. In recent years Flynn has reduced his format to miniature paintings on paper, the intimate size of these gem-like works has only increased their sense of scale to an epic grandeur. 

In these works Flynn balances historic forms of abstraction, with a playfulness of Saturday morning cartoons (Robotech, Transformers and Voltron was perhaps where many of us first encountered futuristic modernism). The hard edge geometry that echoes Kasimir Malevich’s floating cities in space, or El Lissitzky’s epic architectures, play against blobs and spikes, and twisting zigzags. The projected energies of clashing colour combine into contrasting harmonies that are not utopic, but rather full of diversity, unlikely constructions and dynamic movement. Rarely serene or orderly, repetition and dissonance sparkle across the paper, complicating the interaction of forms and activating the space in which they float. The abstract complexes conglomerate into figures and forms floating on empty, nebulous grounds that could be alien planets, deep space, or simply colour-stained paper. Shapes and their relationships to space become embodied forms, and take on personality. They suggest action and intentions, they hint at consciousness. Flynn’s abstraction resists the reductive tendencies of late modernism. It is not a black empty square of negation, but full of dynamic movement, vivid colour and the indefinable intentions of subjective being.

Flynn has a process-based practice. By that I mean the image is not planned in advance, but rather comes into being through working. It is an open process, as if the rules of the game are being discovered as it is being played. The paintings are worked and worked again. Through a means of move and counter-move, these small paintings can take months to complete. Many times I have seen half-finished paintings in the studio, and thought I have a sense of where they are going, of where they might end up, only to be completely surprised when the work was finished. I think anyone’s guesses would probably be way off, even Flynn’s. This is because he is constantly countering his own moves within the structure of a work, playing against his own sense of aesthetics. By challenging one move with its opposite, he brings forth something new and exciting. This push and pull gives the image a life that couldn’t be preconceived. 

These small abstractions never quite resolve into something fixed and recognizable. Flynn returns us again and again to the disjuncture between form and content. The relationships between shape and colour, figure and ground, line and space are full of inversions and apparent contradictions. Flynn’s abstractions remind us that little is fixed, that meaning is constantly in the making, and by extension, that being is itself fluid and ambiguous.  He does this through the very basics of picture making, and through inventive exploration and play. Hinting at complexity and interaction, Flynn has developed his unique aesthetic into a personal universe that reveals itself over this exceptionally developed body of work, in which the viewer may participate, anticipate, but never fully resolve. A rendezvous with Rama, Flynn’s playful enigmas unfold across the void according to their own idiosyncratic logic. 

 

Arryn Snowball, 2019

Flynn’s Arcade: Obfuscation and the Art of Christian Flynn

In 2018 and 2019, we have seen a radical reexamination of what it is to be an artist, and how divisible the work is from that artist. Though this is not a new phenomenon (one thinks immediately of debates around the artistic worth, after considerations of personal conduct, of Pablo Picasso, Michael Jackson and Roman Polanski), this revisionism has taken on an urgency and scale never seen before, due in part to evolving identity politics, themselves partially attributable to evolving technologies. More than ever, viewers (consumers?) refuse to see a distinction between the artist and their work. This may not sound like a seismic shift for performers, who, despite the fact that they are performing, are constantly in the spotlight. There is always a presence of the performer, whether they’re playing themselves a fantastic character (consider David Bowie or Orson Welles who we will come back to), but for the painter, the writer, the director, who have the ability if they wish it, to stand completely behind their works, out of the public eye, this is a massive change. Picasso, a very public figure for a visual artist, is one thing, but for many artists, part of the freedom is the ability to act, feel, think and play outside of the spotlight, unencumbered by the moral and philosophical certitudes of the masses. Obscurity isn’t just a cloak of safety, of invisibility, but a key artistic strategy. Considered in the contemporary context of the artist being indivisible from their work, obscurantism becomes doubly powerful.

Returning to Orson Welles and his own deployment of obscurantism, I would like to draw attention to his efforts to finance and create what became his final film, the Other Side of the Wind, which was never quite finished, and released posthumously after an edit. The film provides valuable insight into the idea of narrative and autobiography, and the slippage between, for Welles’ film was built around a brilliant conceit; one half of the film was to be ostensibly about an aging filmmaker trying to finance and create a film, the other half being the film itself, the film within the film. Such ideas were decades ahead of what we now take for granted in the post Larry Sanders/Gary Shandling world, with metaphysical acrobatics that serve as much as trailblazing formal experimentation as winking satire of an industry forever eating and regurgitating itself for the masses. These metaphysics build additional layers of fascination, with Welles casting real actors and directors to play not themselves, but vaguely analogous ciphers, cartoon versions, of themselves. The film-within-the-film appears to be a pastiche (or a satire) of the French New Wave of cinema, which was so influential to Hollywood’s own New Wave, which more or less destroyed the very system that Welles had helped build, and had worked in, or in opposition to, for decades. This may appear to be a tangled web of references, puckish winks and deferential nods, but Welles’ insistence upon the separation of autobiography from the film’s analysis is, in itself, revealing. He saw it, despite being a partly-improvised and partly-constructed narrative, as a kind of documentary, or analysis, of Hollywood, rather than himself.

 

Temporarily moving the conversation away from art, but perhaps more closely to Christian Flynn’s recent paintings, we should consider the activities of Richard Doty. Doty is a former Special Agent for the United States American Air Force Office of Special Investigation, who specialized (and many would argue still specializes) in counterintelligence and disinformation. He is also a UFO expert, and has appeared as such in many interviews and documentaries. Doty is an interesting figure, not because of his claims– which are relatively tame compared to many similar figures of the UFO community– but because his claims butt up against his former profession so neatly. To the casual observer, Doty’s talk of UFOs, ETs, black ops government research projects and conspiracies could be construed as so much hokum. However, and this is where it gets interesting, Doty’s accounts always sit flush beside well-established and well-documented  timelines, and can often be corroborated by way of evidence, or claims consistent with his own, from (more) reputable sources. Upon careful inspection of the man’s claims, the question shifts from whether or not Doty’s claims are real, to whether or not he is still going through his counterintelligence motions after his retirement; are the elaborate narratives he has built over years of interviews themselves the fiction? And if they are, what are the real truths being obscured by these narratives? It is in this way that Doty is truly a master of deception. The UFO community is deeply suspicious of Doty because his public claims, if taken seriously, are offered unvarnished, with various support and evidence, which is highly unusual in this context. Conversely, if Doty’s claims are to be dismissed as obfuscation, they create a desire for a deeper truth, which Doty must be hiding. Another alternative, and perhaps the most likely, exists somewhere between, where Doty’s information and misinformation is all documented with equal sincerity and, by default, equal credibility; the truth is hidden in plain sight, alongside parallel half-truths and untruths. This is, of course, the arena of the artist, the writer, the filmmaker.

Welles and Doty may seem strange framing devices for discussion Flynn’s artistic practice, but there are many parallels that can be drawn between the artist, his works, and the narratives threaded between them. Just like Welles and Doty, Flynn’s use of narrative serves a purpose we can only guess at. Broken down into an index of points which chart a narrative timeline (or is it a cartography?), we are bombarded with half-truths, innuendos and red herrings. While narrative itself is a relatively recent concern for the artist, his continuing interest in the detritus of humanity, whether it be advertising, popular culture, or the byproducts of the body itself, has always reached toward some kind of reconciliation of the future, and what is gone and will never, ever return.  This is the same artist who at one stage used the physical and spiritual disposability of advertising itself, using bottle shop corflute signs, as a graphic starting point. It is in this way that the work continues an ongoing conversation with itself. While many artists’ work seems to progress in a linear fashion, a chronological development of ideas and their execution, Flynn seems to work in a circular, but forward moving, fashion. Studio touchstones recur, but not without significant pauses, often years-long. Old works are rediscovered, stripped and mined of ideas of merit, and finally reconstituted and redeployed in new work. Without laboring the point, the work reaches inwards and outwards simultaneously.

Flynn’s artistic career, which comprises of many series of paintings, which each explore an additional register added since the last, does gesture toward expansion, or the infinite, but always remains grounded with an Earthly, or human, element.  It is an effective visual binary, and universalizes Flynn’s work without pandering, or diluting the artist’s most promising visual strengths. Science fiction is perhaps the most immediately apparent aesthetic influence on Flynn’s work, and this binary is often reflected in the genre’s own spiritual aches. Think of the endless galactic nothingness of Dark Star, grounded by the astronauts’ growing collective boredom, irritation and madness; the boundless, optimistic possibilities of time and space of Interstellar, grounded by the dirt and dust of a dying farm, symbolic of a dying world; or Roy Batty’s vivid, allusive proclamations shortly before his unavoidable, predetermined death in Bladreunner. Like these films, Flynn’s work operates as a universe in miniature, he charting of one specific story in a galaxy of stories, yet obscured through abstraction, of form and shape. The forms within are familiar, but evanescent. The artist may flesh out these alien environments, but is the viewer who traverses them.

 

Science Fiction is also, perhaps, the fuel most often consumed by the artist. In the age of streaming, the internet offers a steady and accessible diet of the genre, which Flynn uses in the studio in the way many artists use music or podcasts. It is listened to rather than watched, a steady and familiar narrative which can be focused in and out of; a radio play for the Generation X. Whole television series are steadily absorbed and revisited later; Voltus 5, Transformers, Star Trek, the X-Files. Such visual influences have been easily identifiable in Flynn’s work for some time, particularly the bold colors and streamlined forms of the Japanese-designed Super Robot subgenre, but it could be argued that, compellingly, it is the subversive theme of alienation, a mainstay of science fiction, which has resonated with the artist most personally over more recent years. This ongoing presence, a steady stream of visually and philosophically-compelling narratives of alienation, identity crisis and paranoia, is certainly a defining through line of Flynn’s studio practice, when put in relief to the nihilism and outright spiritual and philosophical doom of the late-capitalist era. Considering the visual and philosophical influence of science fiction, and the artist’s fascination with ufology, it might be easy to prescribe some kind of ill-advised theory of fandom or even obsession, but I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth. In a parallel to his work, Flynn considers each angle and position quite carefully, with an objective detachment. To take a cue from the X-Files, itself an intimidating mythology built on a mish-mash of conspiracy theory, but expertly tempered by the yin and yang perspectives of FBI agents Mulder and Scully (belief and skepticism), and in later seasons, Agent Doggett (who brings a third perspective, reason, into the mix), Flynn’s position is somewhere in the middle. Open to new ideas and possibilities, but requiring evidence to proceed.

 

This studio practice is itself somewhat unusual in its execution. Flynn typically works on several— sometimes dozens— of works at one time, usually prepared and started during the same studio session. A loose, gestural layer, usually acrylic, is lashed over each piece of paper or canvas. Harder geometric forms are then layered, one by one, in considered fashion. In many recent works, this is the point at which Flynn will begin to reincorporate more organic forms, something more or less absent for over a decade. It is over these forms that we seem to project narrative, blobs and cells linking with the hard geometric edges, which can be difficult to resolve. Around this time, when images begin to set, is the most dangerous stage of creation. This part of the process is deceptive; often works will sit, untouched for months, awaiting the correct addition to transform and complete their composition. It is at this moment where a simple mark or shape can weld the image into place, bringing about a sudden tension or unity, resolving the work. These moments are almost always unexpected to the casual viewer, even if they have been able to see the works at each step. One can’t help but wonder how unexpected these moves are to the artist.

 

Returning to the many faces of Orson Welles, and the many potential interpretations of the Other Side of the Wind, there seems to be a preternatural demand by scholars and critics of its autobiographical qualities; it mirrors or parallels the artist, so therefore it is autobiography. I believe that this is largely attributable to three contemporary phenomena, the first being the prism of narcissism, engendered by social media, in which the world is largely viewed through today (everything is about us, always). The second is the now casually arbitrary nature of the surveillance state (all of your actions are being monitored, all of the time). The third is the deep distrust of the concept of artistic genius (the postmodern fallacy that anybody can be in artist is, of course, bunk). Every contemporary artist must deal with questions of autobiography, whether it is an aspect of their practice or not, because that is the direction people approach it. Therefore, is it any wonder that obscurantism becomes crucial to the artist? Obviously the interface with the public, via exhibitions particularly, is important, but art remains one of the rare aspects of contemporary life where everything need not be revealed right away, where mysteries can linger. Christian Flynn’s work maintains its mystery and challenges us to go deeper. To demand of it neat, contemporary interpretations of autobiography seems a redundancy, given its grand, outward reaching scope, and its simultaneous intimacy. As viewers, we bring with us our own experiences and transpose them onto these alien landscapes and biological forms, searching for a meaning in the visual terrain as we are trained to throughout our multiphrenic lives. This isn’t necessarily the wrong way to look at Flynn’s work, but just as taking something Doty or Welles tells us at face value, we may be left to search for the unstated subtext to these works, or to hold them up to a mirror to reveal some hereto-unseen aspect.

The truth is out there.

Jonathan McBurnie

Small but infinite 

 

Christian Flynn creates visceral artworks that connect with another plane. They are neither here on earth nor anywhere else in particular. The works are a portal in to something more than what we can see. The colours and shapes make the work monumental even though the paintings are small in dimension. Flynn is interested in the ambiguity between abstraction and figuration. This can be seen in the tension between the fluid and geometric forms. It is these qualities that perplex and disrupt rationality, causing the viewer to reach for connections. While looking for meaning, we discover much more than what is ‘real’ or ‘tangible’. You can get lost in these paintings, lost in the not knowing. In this solo exhibition we are lucky to view Flynn’s new works, each painting exuding colour, energy and motion. The artist provides different planes with new discoveries of the unknown. His work is lyrical in the way that it evokes an emotional response and stimulates thought processes. The works on display encourage audiences to think about what makes a theatre? What makes a stage? And, how does the unfamiliar feel in a participatory universe? The need for energy drives communication. In the theatre of the alien, it is a mystery that we communicate at all. 

 

The theatre

How did I know that it was a theatre? Because of the presence of a stage, a division between myself and others, who were together, performing, in unison on an unrecognizable mission. The theatre is unknown, but this recognition is of little importance, for it mirrors every other theatre, every other undefined space, every other platform of communication, where people come to listen to one another. It is the theatre of alien encounters. The space of the theatre is open, yet it envelopes matter in a protective, invisible boundary between the form and the outside world. Theatres are the settings for performances. There is a dynamic interconnectedness with form. In Flynn’s recent exhibition Come Close at the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, (February, 2019), he talked about the importance of focusing on the act of making artworks as a way of opening up new possibilities of imagination. The artist relates the process of painting as being ‘under construction,’ often working on more than twenty paintings at any one time. Layers are built up in the process with intention to explore textuality and interconnectedness. In his work, form, colour and line develop a new cohesion. The elements and forms connect visually. 

 

Landscapes

Think arid, wet, inundated, uninhabited, cloudy planes. Sightings often occur in desolate landscapes such as these. The dry and wet settings both speak of difficult places to inhabit. On first encounter, many of the paintings feel uninhabited, but we do still feel connected to the forms, seeking other life. Unlike other images of outer space, industrial and monochrome, these landscapes emit energy and colour. The paintings have a Roswellian stir of excitement.  

 

Forms

Look out for the delicate tensions between fine lines and fluid pigment. Geometric angles adjacent to curved lines.

There is a cohesion to the forms and their place together on this otherworldly plane. Despite the abstraction from what we know, the forms seem to work in harmony. They don’t appear threatening. In fact, maybe we are the threatening ones? The forms seem playful and joyous, their bodies stretching in and out as if dancing. They seem as if they are floating or flying, without gravity. There are both fluid lines and sharp edges, demonstrating that both can exist in this other universe. 

The cohesion of the forms and lines has the function of language. Arriving, encounters, ancient, light.

 

Language is important to the artist’s work – the titles being a lead into the material. Flynn’s practice is influenced by documentation of alien encounters and records of unidentified flying objects. The work in this exhibition speaks to this curiosity and how communication is enacted. The creatures in this series are perplexing and dazzling. The bright, heightened colours, which have become a notable aspect of the artist’s practice, imbue the forms with power. The combinations of almost sickening pink, silver, orange and brown, while not normally paired together, in this case, work to form something full of excitement and urgency. Perhaps in arrival or departure from one plane to another. It is more that these small, abstract works are invitations into the infinite. For me, Flynn’s works evoke a gut reaction of excitement that there is always more, always things to find.

 

Isabella Baker. 2019

Within the realm of a dying sun ... 

 

Tonight two stars, known collectively as KIC 9832227, are travelling toward one another on an unstoppable trajectory; astronomers have predicted there will be a spectacular collision in 2022. With a flash of energy, the cores of the stars will crash together and a new entity – a rare red nova – will coalesce into form. The new star will sparkle with bright crimson light that is 10,000 times brighter than its parent stars. It will be visible from the earth for just over a year, and then will fade into dark obscurity. It is not only the promise of incredible visual spectacles that arouse our interest in stories of astrological destruction and formation. We are captivated – and perhaps a little disturbed – by the ability of these events to belie the myth of a perfect and stable cosmos. Christian Flynn’s Within the realm of a dying sun explores the universe’s slow and steady slip into chaos. In these paintings, he employs a lexicon of geometric shapes to embody spatial order. His symbolism evokes the words of Galileo Galilei, who viewed the universe in rational, empirical terms: It is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.

 

Juxtaposed with painterly abysses of cloud and gas, Flynn’s circular shapes conjure radiating suns or desolate lunar bodies, while rectilinear forms suggest probing spacecraft, interstellar maps, or ominous Kubrickian monoliths. This interplay of abstract and figurative forms in fields of ambiguous space evoke the Surrealist landscapes of Yves Tanguy and Joan Miró; Flynn has identified these artists as important influences. While some of Flynn’s paintings feature balanced tones and symmetrical form in tightly controlled compositions, in others he has included riotous explosions of high-key colour to suggest movement and instability. By mobilising these contrasts of colour and shape, Flynn expresses the paradoxical nature of the cosmos; it is a paragon of order that is doomed to a state of maximum entropy. The deckled edges of the paper on which he paints further enhance the impression of degradation. When considered in this way, Flynn’s current paintings operate like cosmic memento mori, calling us to marvel at the magnificence of the universe while simultaneously foretelling its slow and steady demise.

Emily Poore, 2017

Christian Flynn: A Framework For Material Development and Evaluation

 

In 1974 the organisation known as Catalogue compiled a book titled An Index of Possibilities. The book takes the form of an encyclopedia, sourcing and cross-referencing information from various sciences, religions and cults, covering topics as diverse as anti-matter and the symmetrical universe, cosmology, entropy, solar energy, and the fundamentals of spacetime. At the very beginning of the book under the heading “how to use”, the authors state: 

 

There are 842 possible ways of using this book. Here are six of them:

1. Read the book from cover to cover.

2. Choose an idea, formula, dream, theory, person, method, concept, two-toed mongoose, and pursue it through the book using the Index and cross-references. Think laterally. 

3. Look at the pictures.

4. Hit the Index: turn the book on its back, utter a loud cry, strike the book three times with clenched fist, open the Index, stab blindly with pencil, machete, finger or letter-opener; move to the page indicated.

5. Rip off the bottom corner of page 188, chew thoughtfully and wait.

6. Give it to a friend to read. Think generously.

 

Satire aside, the theoretical structure of the text is quite compelling. The encyclopedic format of An Index of Possibilities allows for the coexistence of both order and variation. In the same way, these tentative guidelines parallel the artistic process of Brisbane-based painter Christian Flynn. Painting since 2009, Flynn approaches his canvas like a proto-scientist, sampling and testing the limits of control, all the while tongue firmly in cheek. He acts with purpose. By limiting his palette and setting compositional rules, Flynn implements a framework for material development and evaluation. 

 

There is an element of commitment required on behalf of the audience, and indeed the artist himself, in the straight compositions of works such as Test Pattern (2012) and Power Is Born Here (2013). For Flynn, this straight compositional approach slows down the process of the personal and political, allowing for an exploration of something more esoteric, yet always within the realm of the material world. While many of Flynn’s works suggest a layering of fractal universes and multi-dimensionality, such as Monkey Glands (2011) and Harvester III (2011), each piece insists on grounding itself in materiality. Flynn rejects the paradox of immaterial materiality, aptly stating that ‘even if you bust into another dimension, it’s still tangible.’ 

 

There is evidence of a gradual shift in Flynn’s approach from his straight compositions to the disordered arrangements of works such as No Solution I (2011). Here, Flynn presents a conflict of form via a nebula of chaotic strokes masked by a formal geometric grid. Compositions such as this have entropic connotations. Entropy, within Thermodynamics, is defined as the scientific measure of the irreversible descent into disorder. To its acclaim, entropy has been discussed and conceptualised within art history since its scientific inception. In 1966 American artist Robert Smithson wrote that entropy tells us ‘energy is more easily lost than obtained, and that in the ultimate future the whole universe will burn out and be transformed into an all-encompassing sameness.’ In regards to Art History, entropy is not altogether a postmodern ‘blackout’. Arguably, it is instead a productive means for the comprehension of randomness. Entropy provides a workable foundation through which we can index chaos. And here indeed we may find an allegorical segue into the artistic process of Christian Flynn. 

 

Kate O’Connor, 2015

Christian Flynn / Test Pattern

The images that impress themselves on us as children have a prevailing influence on our lives. So it is with Christian Flynn who, as a child, was enthralled by the ABC TV test pattern. He is not alone in this – the design’s ordered structure and saturated tones beguiled a generation of kids who grew up on colour television. For Flynn, the pattern continues to resonate, and has become one of the foundations of his art. Other artists have been inspired by the motif that speaks, incidentally, to the language of abstraction. Scott Redford’s larger-than-life painting Things the mind already knows 2010, and Luke Parker’s installation Test pattern test (Optical discs) 2006, celebrating 50 years of ABC TV, prove its allure. Flynn’s investigation, however, is part of a larger project that has sustained him over several years. Other influences that feed into his work are as diverse as the post-minimalist paintings of Peter Halley, and through Halley the work of proto modernists such as Piet Mondrian; the iconography of Japanese anime, in particular the animated exploits of The Voltus Team of super robots and related action figures popular from the late 1970s; the New York skyline, which captivated Flynn during a trip to the United States last year; and contemporary advertising and design. Each of these informs an aesthetic that is at once random and orchestrated, expansive and restrained, fragmentary and refined.

  

Sculpture, not surprisingly, plays a pivotal role in Flynn’s practice. The paintings from this current series retain strong links to the three dimensional through their overtly constructed nature, and through the spaces Flynn creates between his gestural under painting and the hard-edged structures he imposes on it. Gesture and geometry collide in works that reject the purity and idealism of early Modernism, while paying homage to it through form. Areas of solid colour that appear flat are revealed, under scrutiny, to be layered. These multidimensional shapes recall origami, presumably one source for the Japanese animators that inspire Flynn. Through the fractured, folded forms in paintings such as Pusher 2011, he asks his audience to acknowledge his method, stating, “That’s the point of doing things in paint.” The artist contrasts these polished surfaces with areas where he relinquishes control and, attuned to the nuances of his materials, works into the paint with brush or fingertips. The finished paintings are a coordinated sequence of competing yet, paradoxically, complementary components. Authoritative, brash and, at times, comic, Flynn performs a balancing act designed to stretch incongruity to its limits. 

Faced with an endless set of geometric possibilities, Flynn sets constraints. He restricts his palette and his formal language to test, “what you can do with a limited number of rules.” Like many of his contemporaries, he seeks balance; to bring together visual elements once seen as mutually exclusive and establish where they coincide. Art and life merge. The hybrid, a function and legacy of a post-modern world, is at work.

Verticality is a dominant theme in Flynn’s paintings. In works like Transition 2011, there is a sense of looking up, through the splintered shapes that pierce the picture plane, into another world. Flynn builds the image using paint as an “additive and reductive” force. Not for him a pure, white plane. He prefers a dark, primordial surface as the backdrop for his grids. We are left to negotiate the spaces between the solids and the voids, to distinguish between object and ground, and to wonder what lies beneath.

 

For Flynn and a legion of viewers like him, the ABC TV test pattern still holds sway, a phenomenon attested to by the number of websites selling t-shirts embossed with the icon. One comes with the caption ‘This is only a test’. Though it may be his professed stance, Christian Flynn’s paintings, and the intentions that provoke them, assert otherwise.

Samantha Littley, 2011