Martin Maloney-Field Workers Exhibition
The London based artist Martin Maloney, best know for his large scale “social observation paintings” is now showing his landmark series ‘Field Workers,’ at JGM Gallery, 24 Howie Street. Often created in a single session, Maloney’s figurative paintings are characterised by an expressionist style, one that toggles between playful invention and searing observation. In 1999 he showed ‘Sex Club’, a series of large scale paintings of gay sex in the exhibition ‘Neurotic Realism’ at the Saatchi Gallery to much controversy and acclaim. His subjects seem to be captured unawares, haunted by an awkward yet familiar malaise.
Created in 2013, “Field Workers” is a series of ten paintings unlike anything we have ever seen by Maloney. Ten different women, in various states of undress, stand nonchalantly in the middle of abstract landscapes of rhythmic pattern and euphoric colour. Shown alongside their related collaged drawings, these works are more about the painter observing his own process, than a social commentary. Drawn onto a mosaic of jump-cut styles and patterns salvaged from old, rejected drawings, these lonely figures disrupt the bucolic landscape with a sense of pathos.
“In this series I was interested in investigating expressive language in painting. The collages were made before the paintings from scraps of old drawings. I worked intuitively. A bit like making a jig saw puzzle, except I didn’t know the final image until it emerged from the pieces… accidental marks took on a new life and meaning, a drip might become an arm or something like that.” Martin Maloney
The collage drawings were pinned up next to the canvas as a guide to look at and copy. “This was new. I liked the discipline it gave me; it was also surprising as the final result was to make a work as wild looking as possible but the method was a careful copying of my own collage drawings,” Like David Bowie’s collaged songwriting, these studies give Maloney access to his entire repertoire of mark making as source material. Instead of sketches, they became “recipes” for his oil paintings, which he followed whilst making the large scale paintings.
“Normally on other series, I would have a simple line drawing to work from and invent everything as I was painting, so the act of painting was full of spontaneity and invention.Here the act of painting wasn’t so inventive as I was copying the collage drawings.” Martin Maloney
Whilst painting, Maloney keys into his memory of art history and women depicted in landscape. Breathing new life into an old genre, these works call to mind paintings by Matisse [Decorative Figure] and Klimt [Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer], and further back to the ornamental flatness of Romanesque Frescoes. This heightened procedural awareness elicits numerous questions about centuries of painting the female form and its objectification.
“Artists reinvigorate their practise by looking at work from the past from other artists and think how would that be done now, what would be a contemporary equivalent. I think I had looked at Picabia’s transparent women painting and was interested in that.I was always puzzled by how to have a background in a painting so I played with bringing the background over the figure and he does that. ” Martin Maloney
Nico Kos Earle