An Introduction to the Work of Nick Malone
Recovery | e1 Gallery Catalogue | Libby Anson
Nick Malone's drive to create gives form and validity to his own experience. Painting is everything to him. It corresponds to an internal, coherent world - a universe parallel to the uncertain one his being inhabits. Such justifications are appropriatley dramatic, for ideas which have informed Malone's painting for over a decade. His pictorial conerns emanate from a reverence for and an affinity with artistic achievements of the past. Those range from the suggestive qualities of pre-historic cave paintings through to the sophisticated primitivism of Jean Dubuffet, the monumental abstract of Franz Kline and the spirited, graphic gestures of Cy Twombly.
The Recovering paintings are beautiful like wounds can be - glowing and brutal, raw and penetrating. For the artist, beauty is about harmony, about "the balance being right". For and deliberation - power driven by emotion. They are about recovery, recovering emotion, covering over, reclaiming, retrieving what was lost - literally and metaphorically. One might expect the graphic response to such concepts to be a serene visual analogy of bathing away batterng and pain. These are, however, more loaded with the tension of recovery and re-covering, the uncertainty, the hidden fury of brusing. These are charged, unsettled surfaces being knocked about to resolution.
Although they resonate with the energies of both the land and the sea - the former partiulary prevalent in earlier series of works - Recovering is not site specific. Malone seeks not to build an overtly narrative or directly referential image but to concentrate on the metaphysical. Thought is expressed materially by the action of putting on the paint; the idea is contained within the movement of the creative act. "Thought becomes the manipulation of materials fusing with describing the idea; they become completely intermingled. I can't say what the idea is in words because it's visual. The idea itself is the visual fusing". The finished product, a collection of many thousands of thoughts, merely hints at the complexity of this conceptual and tangible layering. At the same time, the whole history of the work can be absorbed subliminially in a moment.
Recurring forms like the crucifix and sand-bar make basic statements of shape. These dissolve and re-emerge - sometimes subtly, sometimes clear and insistent, depending on the mood of the picture. Charcoal lines, reminiscent of cave drawings, or icon of a fish or a figure in wax-resist, occasionally feature like a transient cast of characters opening up possibilities of association and interconnection. "The paintings are physical bodies; they relate to physical bodies; they relate to physical forms outside themselves." The pictures are thoughts disturbed. At the same time they are constrained by their own structural dynamics. The compostional framework, ituitive to a certain extent, supports the materiality of time as charted by stuff on paper. The turbulent marriage between hard-edged drawing and gestural swipes of soft paint is a covert, rather than nihilistic, sabotage of asethetic calm. There are paradoxes and contrasts within paintings but nothing that jars one to a halt. To deliberately wreck what is potentially beautiful would be too facile a statement. "It's too easy to impose your will on a picture. The difficulty of painting is letting it assume its own idenity, letting the paint itself work. Colours and materials transmit messages to one another and pick up echoes...." The interrelationship of the painting's elements sparks the whole into rumbling with an internal, electric dialogue which resonates long after one's gaze has gone.
The paintings offer a sense of travelling with the painter through time - time contained within the paintings. They capture an essence of physical existance, "like piercing a veil and going into another world....Not a fantasy world like a Gothic landscape, for example, but one which is constructed in its own terms and develops its own coherence". Liberating himself from the notion of fixed point perspective, the artist says that this "...opens up a world of much wider ranging associations, possibilities and informations". In such abandonment he works with the stuff that has nourished the ideology and compostion of visual traditions for centuries. The larger pieces have the monumental potential of a frieze or mural. Acrylic meduim combines with plaster, earth pigments and charcoal on paper which is then knocked back and reworked several times. The resulting rich palimpsest seem to call up primal memories of the earliest of man's daubings. Awakened by the surprising light of a lapis-blue streak, a fiery vermillion splash, or a bright smear of raw, yellow orchre. A light, breath-of-air quality occasionally pays homage to Turner, preventing the paintings from resonating as brooding or heavy laden. These are, however, anxious pieces infused with urgency, reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism. Yet they contain an element of suppression, as if the control of materials is more important than emotional release - or anarchy.