Donal Moloney – London, England

Donal Moloney, Detail of Reliquary

Donal Moloney, Detail of Reliquary

Briefly describe the work you do.

The work I make are small paintings on canvas. I construct ‘models’ and dioramas using a variety of materials such as plaster, plasticine, clay, string, paint, wood, plastic and varnishes. I make what could be thought of as colourful, almost iridescent, playful objects and forms. These are made quickly and originate from very simple ideas that I record as thumbnail sketches and descriptive notes such as ‘a series of overlapping mountains’ or ‘two trees made from plasticine’. I subsequently combine these objects with other found imagery.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I am originally from Cork. I studied Fine Art at the Crawford College of Art and Design before coming to London to do an MFA in Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art. It is hard to say how my background has influenced me as an artist. Perhaps the biggest influence has been learning to draw in art classes when I was younger and really enjoying being absorbed in making images. This interest in painting and drawing grew and grew throughout secondary education and eventually led to me applying to art school.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of ‘being in the studio.’

My studio practice sounds quite like the one you described! Whether it is ‘traditional’ or not I do not know but I have always liked to have quite a steady routine in the studio. It is quite simple really. I start early and plan out what I hope to achieve for the day. This plan in then improvised upon but I find it very useful to have an aim that I can then be flexible with. I find limits constructive and a sort of focusing aid at times. Some days in the studio can be spent on the computer editing and searching for Images I want to paint. Other times many weeks can go by where all I am doing is underpainting. I like the way you can build a studio practice out of all the things you love doing. For me, it is about mixing very quick and playful model making with longer more contemplative ‘reconstructing’ of the models in a painting. Rather than copying the models the paintings are, I think, more of an interpretation of them; a slow gestational reimagining of them. Of course many ideas jump out at you when you’re out of the studio and you make notes from these little ‘moments’. However, when you get back into the reality of the studio those ‘moments’ often lose their gleam and might be better served in a future painting (or not at all!).

Donal Moloney, Shrines.

Donal Moloney, Shrines.

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

That’s a tricky question. I was quite naive when I first started art school. I thought I would be drawing and painting from casts and then from the life model for a number of years. I did not do much research about art school before going! We were more or less given studio spaces and told to get on with it! This was great for me because I had to figure out what I really wanted to do for myself, then teach myself how to do something, rather than depend on being taught every step. This was extremely useful when I left art school. You discover very suprising things about materials with such an open ended way of learning. Regarding what ‘unique role’ I play as ‘the artist’ I have no clear and concise answer. I have always been drawn to artist’s work that gives me the ‘wow factor’ as a friend once described it. I still find that accurate to what I like to look at. I know the artist is apparently supposed to have a role in society creating ‘novel visibilities’ and thought provoking commentaries on the world we live in. Perhaps that is part of what I do but I do not totally know what I am doing most of the time. Maybe my work is some form of commentary on the world we live in, however nuanced or slight my propositions are. At the end of the day I don’t really mind not knowing exactly what I have done as I love ambiguity in art (but a very specific one none the less).

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?

As I mentioned earlier I like to start early and work throughout the day. The way I work also allows me to paint after work or grab an hour or two here and there. I think it’s important to keep the momentum up because, for me, solutions and ideas for the work come during the making of the work itself as my mind drifts. I often find I make serendipitous connections between images and ideas whist actually painting.

Donal Moloney, Reliquary

Donal Moloney, Reliquary

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

Five years ago, whilst still on my MFA and afterwards, I spent a lot of time experimenting with each of the various processes I use such as model making, digital image editing and even weaving for a time. Perhaps the work I was making at this time was not very interesting to look at but in combining image making processes I learned that between these different ways of working there are often exciting combinations. I brought these together and thought about what I really wanted to make rather than what I could make. I made a decision to make the most busy or complex paintings I could imagine. It may sound simple but for me it became about refining very complex combinations of avenues I had explored previously.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

Of course family and friends are really important; they’re great at spotting things you never saw in your work before. Regarding writers and philosophers I do like reading and writing about art but, like many artists, I am not interested in making art about what I read. Reading helps me to get to grips with other’s art making but rarely is there any concrete crossovers with my own practice. I have been reading a great book called ‘The Rhetoric of Perspective’ by Hanneke Grootenboer. I love music and have sometimes thought there is a crossover between the sentiment, or perhaps the complexity, of some of the music I listen to and my own paintings (Sikth, THe Flecktones, Scritti Politti) but I think I just like catchy, cheesy hooks and odd time signatures!

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

I think I would have liked to study art history or maybe write on art. I find the slippages between what you see and read about is fascinating. I did want to become an architect when I was younger. I am quite jealous of an archaeologist friend of mine but like most things the glamour and interest probably shifts when you do it day in day out!


Donal MoloneyMy practice stems from an interest in how the activity of painting can be channelled and transformed through other media and processes from outside itself, such as sculpture, photography, weaving, video, and how this channelling can return back to painting. 

In parallel with this interest in ‘slippages’ between media I am also fascinated by paintings of fantastical and bizarre ‘proximal spaces’. I investigate and play with metamorphosising and compressing all manner of images together in my paintings. Such complicated and multifaceted ways of looking, that these paintings can evoke, are a central concern of my practice.

Donal Moloney, Study for Reliquary 4

Donal Moloney, Study for Reliquary 4

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.


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