by Marguerite de Mosa
Piles of drawings. Water-curled, colour-sorted, edgy.
Lines. Wavy, flowing, coiling, singing.
Marks. Bouncing, splatting, cheeky, soft.
Edges. Ragged, fraying, layered, liminal.
Hands aflutter. Riffling, shuffling, sorting, flipping, folding, tearing, gluing, stapling. Breathing.
This is Donna Malone at work in her art-studio.
The essential core of Donna’s artpractice is drawing. She draws compulsively, prolifically and ubiquitously, on surfaces ranging from tough card and textured art papers through delicate japanese ricepapers to antique book pages. Marks and lines are made, often on both sides of the surface, using a wide array of instruments and techniques: fingers, sticks, crayons, charcoal, pencils, monoprint, encaustic. Through a practice spanning more than thirty years the body of her work has grown to literally thousands of drawings. Her imagery is exceptionally wide-ranging, harvested from an active and constant engagment with ever-changing environments, animals and people encountered through outings, excursions, travel, workshops, plein-air and studio practices. Consistent throughout her work is the recognizable calligraphy of her mark-making: a restless, urgent, dynamic sleight-of-hand employed to harness the unspoken sensuality and vitality of the world around her. The resulting artworks have long harboured this kinetic intensity, an essential “living quality lodged there”. (1)
In 2014 came a Watershed, a turning-point, which constituted an intuitive leap away from the traditional framing devices of pictorial art. Building on insights gained during a workshop in Venice, Donna started tearing up and re-assembling her drawings and marks, introducing collaged imagery gleaned from her own work and other sources. Over-coming profoundly personal feelings about the illicit, destructive nature of tearing, she tapped into a deep intuition about the autopoietic potential of her artmaking. (2)
Her processes became ever more experimental, spontaneous and fluid: seeking, combining, tearing, erasing, undoing, covering, re-imagining, constantly remaking and reinventing, developing her own new language of layered contrapuntal juxtaposition.
In these assemblages surprising hybrid forms and creatures have started to appear, inhabiting not an intentionally constructed imaginary space of surreal other-worldliness but a multi-centered field of affect and relationship. This field extends well beyond the physical boundaries of the individual artworks, forming what Edward Sampson has called an “acting ensemble” of “embodied, interactive emergence”. (3)
These qualities invite an open-ended and multisensory experiencing of the work as an animated play of relationship and interaction which extends across the wider body of Donna’s art. In work after work layered, juxtaposed fragments, openings and elisions hint at components of other works, hidden forces of connection and metamorphosis. In this widened experiential field the works suggests the possibility of a fruitful re-imagining of inter-being in a more-than-human world. (4)
(1). Winterson, Jeanette. The Secret Life of Us. Guardian: 25 Nov 2002 (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2002/nov/25/art.artsfeatures1)
(2) Whitehead, Derek H. Poiesis and Art-Making: A Way of Letting-Be, Contemporary Aesthetics, Volume 1, 2003. (https://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/ca/7523862.0001.005/--poiesis-and-art-making-a-way-of-letting-be?rgn=main;view=fulltext)
(3) Edward Sampson quoted in Barbara Bolt: Material Thinking and the Agency of Matter, in Studies in Material Thinking, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 2007. (http://www.materialthinking.org/papers/37)
(4). Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. Pantheon, 1996; Vintage 1997.