Golden Age: Mary O'Malley's Dazzling Drawings

Mary O'Malley's untitled drawing.
Mary O'Malley's untitled drawing.

Mary O’Malley’s dazzling designs have often seemed part jellyfish, part flower, part chandelier — all built from shimmering veils of silvery dots and dashes that glow against black paper. Her new abstract patterns add a new inspiration: “I like to think of them,” the Beverly artist writes, “as organically growing architecture.”

“I started becoming really interested in architecture, specifically Buddhist and Hindu temples, and that led me to the discovery that the structure of many Hindu temples is based on fractal geometry, which relates to my other work with its connection to patterns in nature,” she says in an email. “I was also looking at a lot of Islamic art, specifically the decorative device of muqarnas, which resemble stalactites. And also other natural phenomena like basalt columns (hexagonal columns of volcanic rock that resemble giant pipe organs or crystalline structures), coral, also man-made things like jewelry, chandeliers, etc. So it’s really a confluence of many different things coming together to create something that is familiar, but strange.”

Her previous drawings were composed of lots of lines, but now the outlines are often filled in with shades of gold in drawings she’s been exhibiting this fall at Simmons College (through Nov. 8) and Aviary (now over) in Boston, and in a two-person exhibit at Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles (through Nov. 21).

“They are started by laying down layers of gouache, and then going back in with gold ink pens, paint pens, and gold leaf, on Somerset printmaking paper,” O’Malley writes.

“I was looking for ways to expand my materials a bit, to find ways to layer and give the work a little more weight and depth, so that’s how the gouache came into it.  It allows me to layer and go back over things and also a way to add even more detail. It’s hard to tell in the photos, but there’s a nice tension between the flat areas of gouache and the different gold inks.”

Mary O’Malley’s “Mutation 1,” which was on view at Aviary.

Mary O’Malley’s “Quasicrystal #1,” 2012, on view at Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles.

Mary O’Malley’s “Quasicrystal #2,” 2012, on view at Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles.

Mary O’Malley’s “Relic #1,” 2012, on view at Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles.

Mary O’Malley’s untitled drawing.

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