In These Times: Pandemic Conversations – Meg O’Flynn

Time Stood Still_Meg-O'Flynn-web

“The pandemic has definitely impacted my practice.” In a new series in partnership with Liverpool John Moores School of Graphic Design & Illustration, we’re speaking with students about their experiences during extraordinary circumstances. Our inaugural In These Times conversation is with first year, Meg O’Flynn…   

The Double Negative: Are there any reoccurring themes that you’re raising in your work, intentionally or on reflection?

Meg O’Flynn: I enjoy creating art that has a deeper meaning or message behind it. And so, where I can, I include issues that are important to me. Politically my work is very left-wing, raising awareness of poverty and other social injustices. Feminism is definitely the most prominent social injustice that my work focuses on which is done intentionally. With women still being treated as second-class citizens, I want to continue to push the issue and gain more awareness about what women face on the daily.

TDN: Some of the work on your Instagram page features music icons, like Grace Jones and Joan Jett, and celebrates Riot Grrrl – can you tell me a little about this interest in the wider, feminist-tinged, pop culture?

MO’F: Looking back on my life, I would say that music has always been a huge part of it. Whether it was spending my summers with my nan playing the Beatles on her record player, or my mum playing her Blondie CD in the car. Basically, every memory I have of my childhood involves music. So, I think it was only natural that as I got older, and my understanding of what feminism was and how it affected my developed, my appreciation of strong women creating art in the music industry, which is so male dominated, also grew. I believe that music and feminism coincide with one another, especially recently, with there being so many incredible female artists turning the tables and dominating the music scene.

“Being a first-year university student during a global pandemic has been a very strange experience”

TDN: Who or what else inspires you?

MO’F: I have been finding a lot of inspiration in the entire Riot Grrrl movement lately as this is the focus point of my most recent and ongoing project. The 90s ‘do it yourself’ aesthetic that is seen throughout this movement seems to be making a huge comeback in design with the younger generation, which is something I love and have been able to recreate in my own work.

TDN: What approach will you take to your future learning, how has this experience changed you’re understanding of being a student and being in education?

MO’F: Being a first-year university student during a global pandemic has been a very strange experience. I am yet to meet my classmates or teachers face to face which has not been the idea of university that was built up in my head. Hopefully in the near future, we will be able to go back to face-to-face learning, which is something that I will definitely not be taking for granted. Being able to bounce ideas off other students is something that I will appreciate, as well as having studio time and lecturers nearby to ask questions.

Grace Jones Album Cover-web

TDN: How do you feel your practice has been affected by recent events, globally and nationally?

MO’F: The pandemic has definitely impacted my practice, with university buildings being closed, my classmates and I have had no access to studios or other specialist equipment that would have been beneficial for a few of my projects. This resulted in me having to create my own studio in a cramped student halls room, using a bedsheet as a backdrop, a window for my studio lighting, and an iPhone as my camera. However, having to use such a basic set up has led to other aspects of my work improving, such as my editing skills, my photography, and my patience.

TDN: Are there any positives to studying a practice-based course during a lockdown?

MO’F: While COVID has undoubtably negatively impacted a lot of students’ work, I would say the opposite happened for me. My entire school career, I have thrived outside of school hours, always getting most of my work done at home when away from other distractions. Online learning has allowed me the freedom to work within the hours that I choose, which in turn helps me stay motivated because my work doesn’t feel like a chore but an outlet of the stress of the day. COVID has also given me inspiration for my work, with a very turbulent political climate churning up new issues to inspire my work every day.

“My willingness to experiment with photography has grown over the academic year”

TDN: Has this experience opened up any possibilities or opportunities you wouldn’t have considered before?

MO’F: Since lockdown began, I’ve been buying and selling clothes, leading to my own little business of selling second-hand clothing online, this has been the only income I have had throughout the lockdown. It has been incredibly beneficial to me as it has freed up a lot of time for me to focus on my course rather than having to go work in a part time job and risk getting sick which would make it even harder to get work complete. This is an opportunity that I never would have considered before the lockdown as I already had a part time job.

TDN: Have you learned anything new about yourself and/or your process?

MO’F: Throughout this year I have definitely learned a lot more about my style of work. My willingness to experiment with photography has grown over the academic year and I have really enjoyed incorporating this into my work. Photography has always been an interest of mine and is something that I have wanted to develop further, so the opportunities I have had on my course to be able to carry this out have been really exciting. Travelling is a huge inspiration when it comes to my photography, I love being able to experience different cultures and new ways of life as well as explore new scenery. Due to the travel restrictions, this hasn’t been possible for anyone this last year, and so travelling is something I am really looking forward to when the time comes, and the restrictions are lifted.

I'm A Feminist

TDN: Do you have anything you’re working on now, or something on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?

MO’F: I’m currently working on my final module project, which is a 16-page publication design which I have centred around the Riot Grrrl movement. I am really excited about this project because it represents me and my style of work more than any other piece of work this year; being able to thoroughly research the Riot Grrrl movement along with all of the feminist music and icons that come along with it, including Joan Jett and Kathleen Hanna. I wanted to create a publication that would educate today’s women on these incredible feminist icons of the 90s who walked so they could run.

As told to Mike Pinnington

Check out more of Meg’s work. All images courtesy Meg O’Flynn

This profile is part of the series In These Times, a partnership between LJMU Graphic Design & Illustration and The Double Negative. Acknowledging the profound difficulties posed to students in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the series recognises outstanding work produced during this challenging time. Profiles of students selected by their peers will be published between April and June 2021.

Posted on 30/04/2021 by thedoublenegative