Since 1980, Canberra artist Peter Maloney has produced copious quantities of works on paper. Hardly any of these have ever been exhibited. Huge piles of drawings never left the artist’s studio, nor were they shown to his acquaintances.
The Drill Hall Gallery curators Tony Oates and Terence Maloon were astounded by what struck them as a “lost continent” – a colossal opus spanning three decades that can be assessed and appreciated for the first time.
Peter Maloney, when he was a student at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, was attracted to the American gestural abstractionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. He admired their equation of composition and improvisation – the spontaneous construction of an image in the heat of the moment.
Maloney’s version of gestural abstraction was characterised by a light hand, by nimbleness and sparingness of gesture, and by transparency of construction. These drawings would require tremendous alertness, presence of mind and mental resourcefulness to be channelled into their physical expression. They demonstrate a virtuosity quite athletic and acrobatic in its way.
Lyrical, improvisatory, diaristic, sometimes devastating in their emotional honesty, Maloney skirts and skirmishes with chaos and discovers a clarity and a coherence that never feels pressured.