Norman O’Flynn’s second solo exhibition at the Worldart gallery in Cape Town will open on May 5. A collection of portraits in the artist’s characteristic stylised pop art vocabulary are the focus of the show. O’Flynn’s portraiture is distinctive and contemporary. It is rendered on transparent plexi-glass layers and reads like comic book illustration, or enlarged tattoos, evoking his fascination for popular culture. The transparent plexi-glass layers generate the “flat and shiny” look he favours, tying in with the strong pop art influence.
This vibe is inspired by his desire to make his work self-consciously ‘consumable’, appear like a mass-consumerist product, and to add a gloss and sense of lightness to the heavy subject matter that underpins his work. He is bent on turning trauma and sources of anxiety, such as the threat of violence, into “visual candy” as a way of showing how everyday it is and how palatable it has become to our society.
His fixation with superheroes and comic book illustration, which marked previous bodies of work, informs how he treats his subjects. He transforms his real life subjects via tattoos and masks with African prints into a homogenous fictional tribe he dubs the Time Keepers. They are united by their existence in an uncertain world that could implode, though their tough façades suggest they are survivors.
The sense of impending doom that haunts his subjects is relayed via highly decorative renderings of explosions and motifs referring to a countdown clock for a bomb. His exhibition will also present an installation of ‘bombs’, stylised renditions in his distinctive pop vocabulary.
Uncertainty and violence are features of life on the African continent and bind South Africans with the African immigrant population who leave their homelands, or consider leaving, in search of stability and safety, says O’Flynn. In his work he depicts this via his choice of local subjects and those from elsewhere on the continent who have settled in Cape Town in pursuit of a better life.
“They have nowhere else to go; we all have the same concerns,” says O’Flynn.
These commonalities form the glue for this exhibition and are reflected via the shared symbols that are ingrained in their skins, such as the “always a Ninja” slogan, which refers to their tenacity in the face of crisis.
The contexts in which his subjects exist are captured via the abstract compositions on the Perspex layer beneath them. This is the background ‘noise’ but also functions as the marks generated by a sensitive measure that registers activity after an implosion. Several abstract works will be exhibited along with an impressive stained glass portrait.
The good, the bad and the “Boom”! closes on May 24, at Worldart, 54 Church Street, Cape Town.