Depth of My Soul, 2022, is one of Peter Maloney’s final paintings, completed before his passing in October 2023. The nightmarish amoebic shape at the centre of the painting displays a pulse that seems to be charged and vibrating. For Mark Bayly, a curator and the artist’s partner, Maloney always felt the reverberations of the nuclear tests in Maralinga, South Australia, his late paintings making these unseen forces explicit in these strange, menacing forms:
At times, the sense of energy in the imagery radiates explosively, while at other times multiple lines cocoon themselves – appearing like distant, imploding stars.
Maloney’s title also implies a self-portrait and a statement about the inner life of humans, a sentiment echoed by a fragment of text transcribed on the painting from Paul Auster’s The invention of solitude (1982): ‘[No – I will not give up nothingness] father – I feel nothingness invade me’. In his memoir, Auster describes how the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé wrote these words at the bedside of his dying son, Anatole, in 1879.
Drawing was a daily practice for Maloney, and Depth of My Soul evolved from The Last Museum of Sanity, 2018–19, a collection of works produced following a hospital stay for acute pneumonia. The various compositions contain assemblages of doodles and sketches, ink outlines, collaged pictures and citations, all realised with an urgent and intense approach, which seems to be drawing on the subconscious or directed by an external force. A recurring motif in these works is the amoebic face in various states of derangement and the side profiles of restless figures who appear to be speaking (or shouting) to themselves. Bayly surmises, ‘I think it’s literally Pete speaking to himself, speaking to his inner thoughts, speaking to his past terrors’.