Brian Flynn Biography
As a child Brian Flynn’s family immigrated to Canada in search of a safe haven. Yet a family life inextricably linked to violence, including regular visits to his homeland of South Armagh and Northern Ireland, have ultimately defined his international art practice. Rooted in memory, family history, archival photographs and news clippings of The Troubles, Brian’s coded depictions of humanity are loaded with uncertainty but consciously eschew outright violence. As seen with his participation in the 2013 X-Border Art Biennial in Finland, themes of protest, identity and place, continue to inform his research.
The choices in artistic media shaping Brian’s art always reveal conceptual heft. For his new series No Photos… No Recordings… No Notes… the palette reflects hues of rubber bullets collected from the streets of Belfast and Derry, as well as embodying the yellowed tone of faded newspaper articles from which selected portrayals are appropriated. In his earlier monumental portraits created by carefully removing mapped areas of carpet underlay from their fibre backing, he probes layers of meaning that are normally unseen, dark and downtrodden: making the uncomfortable visible and flensed for all to see.
Brian Flynn’s work has been exhibited in Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Sweden, Finland and the US. His art features in multiple catalogues, the Alberta Provincial Art Collection, and he appears in the documentary film 20 Feet Over Belfast: The War of Art in Northern Ireland. Brian has taught drawing and painting at Mount Royal University and the Alberta College of Art + Design, and he received his MFA From the University of Ulster, Belfast.
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How do you tell a story that must remain faceless, nameless, and without evidence?
My latest bodies of work continue my interest in social constructions and my family’s ties to politics in Ireland. Using oil paint and photo-transfers as my mediums, I recreate figures from both my family’s history as well as Ireland’s turbulent politicized past. The subjects in my work either held specific agendas in outlawed political organizations or were those who have been affected by these agendas. My process of layering and obscuring, protecting identity while simultaneously wiping it out, is an artistic exercise of the very activities that members of the resistance practiced during the Troubles as a means of self-preservation to avoid detection during oppressive times.
I have recently spent time documenting Fork Hill – the village where my family is from and still lives. A border town, Fork Hill was the most occupied town in Northern Ireland’s history. As of July 31, 2007, the British military finally completely pulled out of the area.
My interest in documenting this area's history focuses on the role of identity and place in the context of conflict. I spent some time interviewing former IRA members regarding their activities, specifically in relation to my grandfather's house located twenty feet from the border which divides Northern and Southern Ireland. The house was used as a staging point for IRA maneuvers against the British army posted in the area. How do you tell a story that must remain faceless, nameless, and without evidence?
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