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Review: Pat Flynn: Half-life of a Miracle

Follow Pat Flynn’s yellow brick road of pop culture, fiction and digital illusion at Manchester Art Gallery


Manchester Art Gallery’s ground floor, The Manchester Gallery, has been transformed into a white cube space for this, the largest solo show of Manchester-based artist Pat Flynn, to date. Unless you’re familiar with his work, which I wasn’t, they look on first glance like they could be photographs or hyper-realistic paintings. They are, in fact, created entirely using 3D computer graphics software. The represented scenarios do not exist in the physical world; in other words, they’re all made up.

At least, most of them are. Some of the works on display contain representations of pre-existing images, such as Wise Man/Shining city upon a Hill, which is a recreation of the side of the Wizard’s throne in The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz is, of course, also made up; a movie adaptation of a fictional novel. So how real is this throne? Is a representation of a pre-existing fabrication still a fabrication, or does the movie provide some concrete standing in the physical world? There is an interesting paradox of fact and fiction at play here: we see the familiar shapes of everyday objects in some of these works and we recognise them, but they are simply digital pixels, ordered and manipulated to create illusions of these familiar objects, questioning the reliability of our system of perception. The analogy of smoke and mirrors was used by Flynn in his Untitled (Smoke) series and sums up his concept nicely.

We can remove ourselves from the smoke and mirrors and enjoy these works on a purely aesthetic level. There is a sort of cleanliness to their aesthetic, a clean cut, straight-lined utopic purity that resonates through them. The colours are bold, the palettes small and the works are easy to look at. There’s a certain beauty in simplicity that draws comparisons with minimalism; some showing the influence of Donald Judd; others the forms of Dan Flavin. There is also an awareness of, and nod to, certain other areas of art history with the chiaroscuro of Caravaggio and the symbolism of Bruegel both subtly but clearly referenced.

Manchester Art Gallery until the 17th of April.

For more information about the exhibition and Pat Flynn’s work visit: Half-life of a Miracle