Curator's Choice: Kate Jesson on photographer Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle at Manchester Art Gallery

| 28 September 2015

The Curator of Contemporary Art on the new exhibition by the Wizard of Oz-referencing photographer in Manchester

A photo of a pile of colourful cheeses in Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Pat Flynn, Cheeses (2015)© Courtesy Pat Flynn / The International 3
"Pat Flynn’s source material for all his images is part personal history, part popular culture and part art history. Relationships are formed between his individual photographs, enabling themes and imagery to expand and develop over a series of works.

In his Cheese series, his choice of dairy product is informed by his fascination with minimalism, the short-lived American art movement of the 1960s. Artists used simple, pared-down geometric forms to make sculpture that was free of both metaphor and personal expression. It is the various formal properties of Dutch cheese that interests Flynn here.

A photo of a pile of colourful cheeses in Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
© Courtesy Pat Flynn / The International 3
He also looks further back to the heyday of the still life genre of painting and, in particular, to the early 17th century artist Georg Flegal, who was Germany’s first still life painter. Flegal elevated the depiction of everyday inanimate objects from the background of paintings to the foreground of his work.

He represented tables laid with food and pipes with a carefully considered composition and naturalistic precision. Flynn’s cheese works update this art tradition. With his Cheeses and again with Microphone, Speaker and Bandit’s Smile, I am reminded that Flynn originally trained as a sculptor. They are photographs about sculpture.

A photo of a white skull in a bowl as part of Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Now that it's all over, we can be Friends (2010)© Courtesy Pat Flynn / The International 3
These images provide a refreshed contemporary interpretation of the traditional relationship between sculpture and photography, originally examined by the legendary theorist Walter Benjamin. He explained how photography disproves the notion that a sculpture can only be a sculpture because it is an object that takes up space. Instead, reproducing sculpture in a photograph creates a new and autonomous art work.

Today we better understand how photography represents our desire to fix temporary objects in a permanent image. Our personal systems of belief, in which we trust that someone exists or that something is true, lie at the heart of Pat’s photography and films.

A photo of a watermelon emitting green steam in front of a lemon hanging on a string as part of Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Other fatherland (1) (2013)© Courtesy Pat Flynn / The International 3
It all starts with his working method. His photographs are, in fact, not photographs at all, but have been created entirely using 3D computer graphics software. Flynn has replaced the function of the traditional camera with a complex system of algorithms by which he builds his 3D worlds.

The shape and texture of every object, as well as all the light and shadow information, are painstakingly reproduced pixel by pixel. He then uses the software’s system of virtual cameras, originally designed to display the best possible viewpoints for interaction, in order to control his field of film. Finally, this carefully selected screen file is sent to a render programme to form the final photographic image.

A photo of a bit of white and grey smoke in front of an orange background as part of Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Untitled (smoke 3) (2012)© Courtesy Pat Flynn / The International 3
It has been estimated that more photos have been taken over the past five years than during the entire history of the camera since its invention. We can happily accept the photograph as a true representation while also knowing that photography is a complete fiction.

We can also confidently use a variety of tools to improve what we see. A carefully selected filter for a selfie can instantly disguise any perceived imperfections. Flynn is a master of manipulation. Yet rather than blur the boundaries between reality and fiction, he creates entirely digitally rendered fiction that masquerades as fact.

A photo of red smoke over white and black cubes in rows as part of Pat Flynn's Half-Life of a Miracle exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery
Untitled (smoke floor) (2013). Lambda print behind glass© Courtesy Pat Flynn / The International 3
He strives to achieve a flawless perfection in the appearance of his work – a hyper-reality, even – for us to believe in. He can then deal with the real subject – his favourite subject, that of life’s imperfections, limitations and disappointments."

  • Pat Flynn: Half-life of a Miracle is at Manchester Art Gallery until April 17 2016. For a chance to win a book about the exhibition, email competitions@culture24.org.uk with the subject Pat Flynn and your contact details. Terms and conditions are here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More from Culture24’s Curator’s Choice section

A pop art depiction of Marilyn Monroe with a hidden inscription at Tate Liverpool

A strapless dress, a shark off the Cumbria coast and a beer barrel

3D guns, Primark trousers and Katy Perry eyelashes at the V&A
Latest comment: >Make a comment
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at www.culture24.org.uk are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.
    sign up to our newsletter to hear about Culture24's new website

    Events

    • 1 mile
    • 2 miles
    • 3 miles
    • 4 miles
    • 5 miles
    • 10 miles
    • 20 miles
    • 50 miles
    • Any time
    • Today
    • This week
    • This month
    • This year

    advertisement