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MARTIN MALONEY | ‘Love Bug’
April 14th 2023
As simple as a quick kiss in a car on a busy junction, the genre-scenes by Martin Maloney depicts everyday life with charming naivety. Women from the neighbourhood crossing paths in a local supermarket give a glimpse into trivial urban living; and once behind the curtains of suburbia, the artist exposes a more bohemian side to contemporary life. Maloney delivers with sincerity and innocence, regardless of subject matter. The stories told on canvas - and his talent for self-staging - placed the artist on a fast track to art world fame in the late-nineties, with several high-profile solo shows and an inclusion in the legendary exhibition ‘Sensation’ at the Royal Academy of Arts. One of only a few works on paper, Love Bug from 2001 is a delightful portrayal of urban residents caught up in modern-day life.
by Henrik Riis
PRINT EDITION RELEASE
It is a familiar scene in the English capital on a sunny day in spring, and in Bloomsbury Square the locals are caught unaware while enjoying a lunch-break. Below the pink-wrapped branches of flowering magnolia trees, two men in shorts and t-shirts are sitting on white folding-chairs, discussing the latest news and apparent matters of great importance; and next to them women in colourful dresses and printed-fabric shirts are talking and knitting. Here, on a green patch in West Central London - framed by houses of cultural excellence in form of Pushkin House and the culinary school Cordon Bleu - life unfolds quietly. The setting from ‘Bloombury Square WC1, 1989’ (2002), alongside his works from the late nineties and onwards, shows Maloney at his finest. Depicting people significantly doing nothing.

Intriguing for the mundane narrative and intelligently funny in the arranging and delivery of the characters, the fictional gatherings on canvas span across daily triviality to late-night sensual utopia. Seven years before, Maloney’s scenery were welcomed as a breath of fresh air onto the London art scene that for years had been overwhelmed by of themes of depression, death and decomposition; a radical subject matter promoted by the Goldsmith graduates of ’89, many later collectively known as the Young British Artists. The mantra of the YBA’s was simple. The more provocative the work, the better the chance to get noticed by the art world and beyond. Class of ’91, like Maloney, was notably anti-YBA and determined to break out of the long shadow cast by the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Jenny Saville.


‘Bloombury Square WC1, 1989’ (2002)

Maloney’s energy, spreading across art-writing and curating, would come to play an important role in providing a platform for his contemporaries and himself. In ’95 he opened the doors to a home-based gallery in Stockwell, a then-questionable part of South London, and co-exhibited with Peter Davies, Dan Hays and other former students of Goldsmith. The Goldsmith pedigree - and the undeniably daring exhibition titles like ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’, ‘Multiple Orgasm’, and ‘White Trash’- drew in the art critics, dealers and gallerists. After just five exhibitions at the residential ‘Lost in Space’ gallery he debuted in the group show ‘Die Yuppie Scum’ at the hip Karsten Schubert Gallery, a London-based art dealer and an early patron of the YBA’s. The voice of a young artist had been heard. From Stockwell to Piccadilly in less than two years, Maloney was hand-picked as “one to watch” by zeitgeist-collector, Charles Saatchi, who included him in ‘Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The artist’s practice combine keen observation with a free and honest style of painting. Uninhibited by technical draughtsmanship, the works have a visual ‘pop’ through his bold use of colour, flat layering and thick paint application; somewhat controversially described as being child-like, naïve, or even crude. This simplistic style of painting can often mean that the hidden complexities in his work - including his powers of observation, his humorous reflections on society, and his deeper references to art history - can be inadvertently overlooked.

Without any detailed studies, Maloney’s spontaneous approach naturally simplifies the subject of his paintings, breaking down scenes to more abstract interpretations that have a charming innocence. His paintings may simplify a scene, but they are far from minimal paintings. The vivid colour palette and the wild gestural energy of his brushstrokes echo the disharmony of the mass, and strife of the real world. In contrast to this, his basic painting style reflects the trivial, the banal, and the everyday nature of his observations. There is a strong sense of storytelling in the paintings, though Maloney gives us just enough detail to start the story, leaving the viewer to fill in the details and encouraging creative interpretations of each scene.

Maloney’s technique is not accidental or without thought. While he avoids the traditions of figurative painting that are normally guided by close study, perspective, and preparative drawings, the artist somewhat surprisingly describes his work as influenced by the great paintings of the past. Uniquely, he adapts traditional techniques to his own means, finding the contemporary twist on art historical conventions. The anecdotal scenes could be described as contemporary reworkings of the type of genre painting depicting a Parisian afternoon in Montmartre, celebrated in nineteenth-century paintings by Renoir. Perhaps not always an obvious reference at first glance, it is when the connection is made to paintings of the past that the sense of the irony and humour in his works is revealed.
MARTIN MALONEY
Love Bug, 2001

Edition of 250
76(w) x 43(h) cm
29.92(w) x 17.13(h) inches
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MARTIN MALONEY
Love Bug, 2001

Edition of 250
76(w) x 43(h) cm
29.92(w) x 17.13(h) inches
ENQUIRY
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Martin Maloney (British, b. 1961)

Love Bug , 2001

76(w) x 43(h) cm
29.92(w) x 17.13(h) inches
24 colour screenprint on 400 gsm Velin Arches paper with deckled edges.

Signed, titled and numbered on front.
Edition of 250
PRICE
$ 830.00
MAKE AN OFFER
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In Love Bug, the artist’s uses the distinctive bright traffic-light colours, alongside his almost awkward, wonky drawing technique - a typical example of Maloney’s painting style. The figures are broken down to simple representations, and yet there is enough detail to observe a couple in a tight embrace in one car, another kissing while driving theirs, and four unimpressed children in the back of another. There is a light-hearted humour to the scene through the actions of the figures, although there is a sense of the chaos of the busy urban roads, reflecting the typical experience of waiting at the traffic lights at an inner city junction.

While recognising Maloney’s art historical references can certainly add an extra layer of understanding to his works, viewers who are perhaps not aware of these references, can still appreciate the paintings’ subtle humour. Drawing people in with his bold visual style, Maloney is ultimately a storyteller. Works such as Love Bug, are a clever and almost interactive experience for the viewer; playing out just enough details to get a sense of the scene and encourage to form personal anecdotal stories, guided by Maloney’s simple but suggestive title and limited only by the extent of the imagination.

The early support by renowned collectors such as Anthony d’Offay and Charles Saatchi had a notable impact on Maloney’s career; a backing which enabled him to quickly move his exhibitions out of his home-based gallery and into the established art world. The inclusion in the exhibition ‘Sensation’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in ’97 heightened his profile significantly and led to several shows in the years that followed, including ‘New Neurotic Realism’ at Saatchi Gallery, and two London solo shows: ‘Die Young Stay Pretty‘ at ICA and ‘Martin Maloney’ at Anthony d’Offay Gallery. Through more recent exhibitions ‘Actress Slash Model’ (2008) and ‘From Park Drive to Riverside Walk’ (2007), the artist continues to tell stories from his studio in London.

Shortly after his solo show at Anthony d’Offay in 2000, the print edition Love Bug and a series of unique lamps made from industrial containers, assembled and fully functionable as lamps, were released in a collaboration between Martin Maloney and Eyestorm. Love Bug is a screenprint created by 24 layers of ink and varnish highlights, presented with deckled edges. The print edition of 250 is signed, titled and numbered on front.

To view the print edition in further detail and to find more information about available works by Martin Maloney, visit the artist’s page here.
 
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