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Highlights from the ANU Art Collection: Peter Maloney

The ANU Art Collection, established in 1949, comprises over 2900 paintings, sculptures, drawings, limited edition prints, and ceramic and glass objects. In this series of posts, produced in collaboration with Drill Hall staff, interns and student volunteers, we introduce a rich selection of works from the collection, providing insight into the individual artworks and the artists that have created them.

Peter Maloney’s National Flame Thrower was painted at the time of the catastrophic Canberra bushfires in 2003, hence its title. Maloney was then in the midst of a profound change to his practice. From direct, gestural, improvisatory compositions in the genre of abstract expressionism, his new approach was becoming more distanced and conceptual.

Experiments with a photocopying machine, involving dragging, distorting, repeating images and collage gave him templates that he could enlarge, sometimes to a considerable size. This means of generating images may have marked a big change but his fastidious care for composition did not.

In this whirling dance of dark motes, every speck can justify its place in the overall rhythm and balance of the image. The effects ofdistortion and mirroring deriving from the photocopier are undoubtedly there but they elude analysis.  The resultant stretching and scattering effect implies the rapid motion of eddies and gusts, corresponding to the charred leaves hurled aloft by raging fires.

Maloney’s painterly sensibility, with his relish for the substance and luminosity of paint, maybe all the more acute because of his restrained approach.  Similarly, the abstract idiom of this work does not preclude a profoundly poetic, musical, referential dimension.

Peter Maloney exhibited Missing in Action at the Drill Hall Gallery in 2018. He was a full time lecturer at the ANU School of Art and Design from 2006 to 2013. 

An exhibition catalogue, Peter Maloney: Missing in action was published by DHG Publishing in 2018 and is available through the gallery or our website.

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.