Maxim from The Prodigy to Artist

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He is part of one of the biggest bands in the world and has regularly toured in Hong Kong.

Turner Barnes Gallery, based just outside London in the UK are in close to proximity to where the story of The Prodigy began.

To be able to represent Maxim as an artist is a great honour. From discovering this unique, hidden collection of work towards the end of last year, we have created a buzz amongst our collectors.

Francesca Gavin is the visual arts editor of Dazed & Confused writes…

If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise. This seemingly innocent phrase has filled our childhood imaginations for almost a century. The idea of the ominous dark space is something that has much longer heritage – through gothic literature, to medieval paganism, to our primeval murk. The dark fantasy landscape of fairy tales and ghostly wars is where Maxims artworks live.

His multimedia paintings grew out of experimentation with abstraction about a decade ago. He began painting moody canvases filled with atmospheric waves of colour, paintings brimming with deep swathes of blood reds and shadowy blacks. These abstract backgrounds, though far more developed technically, still inform the background at the heart of the current works. “I always paint then spray then sometimes paint on top of the spray,” he explains from his home studio.

“The colours have to be right in the background first, before I go any further.” The work progresses and is based on ideas he never sketches, but creates in his mind. He adds collage elements to his painted canvas, using found or his own photographed imagery that he has manipulated in photoshop and printed on archival paper. On top of this more illustrative layer he piles the canvas with a glossy burst of shining clear resin. The results are a series of violent dark-pop artworks.

The Artwork…

The pieces seem to take place in their own world, often depicting an imaginary war between moths and butterflies, spotlight against an exploding sky. Figures fall from the sky. Warped characters cross his living, writhing soil. There are moments that veer towards the comic work of Mobius or Mike Mignola. At other times the modern surrealism of gothic outsiders such as Brom.

The fifteen works in his first solo show all connected by their dark colour palette. “I can only work with certain colours, I’ve tried to diversify but it’s always – purples, dark blues, blacks, dark greys and sinister colours.” The images are filled with details – skulls, bugs, gasmasks and bombs amongst the glossy resin or textured painted surface. The works hint at narrative but keep things open to interpretation.

Beautiful but Deadly…

Skulls are one of the most regular motifs in the collages. His butterfly characters have grimacing skull faces. Piles of skulls hover across the canvases or pile up on the canvas. (Maxims own body is covered in a tapestry of skull tattoos.) “I don’t associate skulls with being evil. I associate it with being part of you, something inside of you as part of your make up. Everyone sees things in different ways – it’s how you’re programmed isn’t it? But I think they’re beautiful.”

Despite the beauty he sees in our inner structure, there is still something violent that fills his work. His bugs attack each other with bloody swords in some post-apocalyptic war – perhaps a metaphor for our own relationship to violence. “It’s like the whole world survives on destruction – we need to be fed destruction. Death and violence and destruction – that’s all you hear on TV. Sometimes you have to get freedom from what’s going on and immerse yourself to fantasy.”

“I like storms because it feels like a storm is kind of washing all the evil away. I find it quite comforting.”

All of Maxims work seems to take place within a storm, dark clouds swirling in his fictional sky. “I like storms because it feels like a storm is kind of washing all the evil away. I find it quite comforting.” He is drawn towards ideas around a total artwork – an experience rather than an object on a wall. Work where light, sound, scent and physicality all influence how you look at something. “I always find when I go to galleries I always look at paintings and its almost one dimensional, you’re not really feeling anything from it – some paintings you do but I feel like if I go to a gallery I want to feel like I’m in it and the whole room is part of it… a sensory type of thing.” His studio – where he creates both music and art – is always kept in darkness.

“When I write music at night the door is totally shut and I always have the lights down,” he notes. “I never open the blinds. I paint with the door closed. It’s just dark. I always have to create in the false reality.”

Just as his musical background has influenced his art, art has in turn fed into his wider creative practise. At the heart of his approach is a love and appreciation of freedom. “I was always restricting myself when I did music, never knowing how to let go and let it be what it is… That’s one thing I’ve learned about art – there isn’t really mistakes in art is there?” Nonetheless when he discards as work there is a finality to it.

“I just have this thing – if something ain’t working now, I just burn it. I never keep it. Kind of like a ritual.”

The devil or hell no longer exists in our post-religious society. Humanity itself has become an embodiment of evils and darkness. Horror in art reflects our awareness of the increasing details of the violence around the world. The depiction of our fears on canvases, such as Maxim can be an attractive and almost comforting resolution to that unease, something to focus our worries on. He depicts a blackness that’s a lot less frightening and more beautiful than the real things that go bump in the night.

Francesca Gavin is the visual arts editor of Dazed & Confused, art editor of Twin and contributing editor at Sleek and AnOther. She has written for publications including Vogue, Elle, GQ, Blueprint, TimeOut, wallpaper*, the Guardian online, Art Review and Sunday Times Style.

Click here to view the collection…