zombie: peter maloney

Utopia Art Gallery, Sydney
June 2002

Peter Maloney's recent solo exhibition of new paintings and works on paper presented a dynamic, considered synthesis of his conceptual interest in the post World War Two, New York school abstractionists. Maloney's aesthetic scouring of early gestural abstraction into an iconography he terms sissy abstraction was captivating.

Maloney's sissy abstractions are comprised of organic, fluid forms that expand and contract on the surface of the work. These astutely rendered elliptical forms oscillate around the surface of the painting. They are at once static yet so animated by movement that your reception wills them into the realm of a cosmic experience.

It is the infinite potential of a cosmic language that Malonwey uses to invigorate the viewing experience of his works in Zombie. Each of the works elicit (with varied levels of intensity) an unconscious referent that we as viewers experience as a blindspot. We know intuitively that there is a referent, a signifying fluidity, aesthetically speaking, yet are not able to put too fine point on it. This sensibility for me resembled lying down and watching the movement of clouds in the sky with friends and spotting images in the cloud formations. Maloney's iconography however is far more sophisticated in its purpose given its intrinsic pictorial stasis.

The distinct rendering of the forms on the surface of these canvases evokes a certain illustrative freedom and liberty. It is the intricate use of line that structures this ethereal nature. In works such as the diptych Mr Happy 2002, the lines form concentric outlines of varied thickness, prompting the idea of an originary form undergoing evolution. The works of the earlier exhibition Peter Maloney and the Seven Lies 2001, held at Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra, also were strongly orientated in this manner. Other finely executed patterns of lines as in Zombie 2002, no longer activate the originary form but rather a deconstructive condition. A condition that ultimately knows no stasis. In this way, Maloney's sissy abstractions achieve some of the dominant heroism associated with the New York abstractionists.

In conjuring a cosmic order of visual language, this body of work by Peter Maloney marks a particular reasoning and engagement within contemporary art practice. Whilst visually our interaction with this work is initially devoid of physical world experience, I could not help being reminded of the proliferation of languages (ideas and images) that come and go from our daily encounters with the world. Maloney's elastic forms make claim to this transitory phenomena, conveying visually the way in which we experience the ransacking of present day culture for meaning. There is just so much stuff to deal with in our daily lives that we are in a constant state of flux.

During a discussion about this exhibition, Peter Maloney told me of an article which appeared in Modern Painters Quarterly Journal of the Fine Arts, Summer, 1988, titled 'British Abstract Painting of the 1860s ~ the spirit drawings of Georgiana Houghton by Tom Gibbons'. This article outlines a reading of early modernist forms of transcendental abstraction in the light of nineteenth century spiritualists working with psychic automatism. In short the article argues a strong case for the social and political concerns of abstraction. It is the ability of abstraction to relate to these concerns of modern societies, past or present, that evidences its conceptual currency over generations, its consistent negotiation of our heavily intertwined actuality. In Zombie 2002, Peter Maloney achieves such ends.