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“Suspended Temporality” is one of William Flynn’s works on display at HallSpace.
“Suspended Temporality” is one of William Flynn’s works on display at HallSpace.Courtesy of HallSpace

Often, an artist doesn’t know where the next vision will spring from.

William Flynn was clearing out his studio, tearing in half decades-old drawings and paintings, tossing them on the floor. Then juxtapositions started winking at him: broad streaks of paint against vaporous textures and squirmy gestures. He began to cut and paste, and a new body of work was born. It’s on view at HallSpace in “Relevant Once, Now Raw Material.”

For Flynn, who taught drawing for more than 40 years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, the technique sets up spatial riddles. Figure and ground flip back and forth.

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“Paginal Echoes” spells out the dynamic. Two skewed rectangles painted with foggy blue horizontals float in great, airy vertical swipes of mauve, teal, and gray. What they represent could be far away or right in front of us — corner windows with a view to the sea, or, as the title suggests, pages of a book. Cutouts affixed to each amplify the tension.

A good painting often offers contradictory possibilities in one image, disrupting our sense of the world. In “Suspended Temporality,” two jaunty gestures in breathy, granular grays cut against the serenity of Flynn’s soft, curtain-like verticals. The grays suggest air and shadows, generous space behind the curtain. But their hard edges hint that they’re solid things, dancing across the surface.

Some works fall flat. “Perpetual Flux” uses cutouts to mimic a flattened box, but the form’s potential of opening and unfolding is lost among busy gestures.

Flynn’s color juxtapositions ratchet things up. His textures, from dollop to wisp, are full of emotional resonance. But the play of the crisp edges of cutouts against ethereal atmospheres drives these paintings. Time as well as space convolutes as old visions mix and burble up anew.

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The present is figure; the past is ground. Forms that first appear immediate have a wonderfully flummoxing trap door to more distant times and places. Flynn beckons us to tumble through and lose our bearings.

WILLIAM FLYNN: Relevant Once, Now Raw Material

At HallSpace, 950 Dorchester Ave., through June 22. 617-288-2255, www.hallspace.org


Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.