THE common response to a successful musician delving into the turbulent waters of the art world is that of raised eyebrows. Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Bob Geldof and Daniel Johnston, to name but a few. However, all of these musicians are a far genre away from a band influential in pioneering the big beat generation of the ’90s and ’00s. Maxim, best known for his exuberant and menacing vocals for The Prodigy, works under the alias MM in his newest project. The MC from Peterborough recently put on his debut art exhibition Lepidop Terror at the INC Space in Covent Garden with an array of dark and psychedelic pieces. It may come as a surprise to some that he has been producing art for many years, only recently deciding to take his work into the public domain.
"I didn’t want to do the obvious thing and just put it on white walls like everybody else does, I wanted to engage more of the senses."
“The first time I started doing art was when I was doing painting for the house. I went to affordable art fairs, what I saw people doing I thought, I could do that, so I went home and bought some canvasses and paint and really enjoyed it and got into it. I didn’t think I would but I did,” said Maxim of his early days as a young artist.
“It wasn’t until I went to New York a friend introduced me to a few other artists with different techniques, with stencils, spray painting and so forth, it was only then I started to take on different ideas, it didn’t have to be just canvass and acrylics, it can be anything and this opened my eyes to a lot of things.”
The exhibition is set in the unconventional surroundings of a dark room with a peculiar scent and an undistinguished humming sound. Why?
“I didn’t want to do the obvious thing and just put it on white walls like everybody else does, I wanted to engage more of the senses rather than when you go into a gallery and you hear heels on a wooden floor, people just walking around, I wanted to take that away and put something different in to trigger off different senses, the sound, the smell, the temperature of the room and walking on carpet, and when you walk out of that room you walk into a white room again,” added Maxim.
Frustration at the shortcomings of the generic art exhibition experience is obvious.
“I always go to the Tate Modern and as good as artists are in there, I go from floor to floor and I spend twenty minutes on each floor, but I spend two or three hours in the book shop. They need to change it around a bit and make it that bit more inviting. In these times of technology you get more drawn into watching a video game than going into an art gallery, they need to use technology and make it a bit more engaging so people can go into a gallery and immerse themselves.”
On arrival to Lepidop Terror, you are confronted with a layout of exhibits using spray paint, images, acrylic, and, perhaps most notably, resin. Many of the paintings in the exhibition depict butterflies with demonic skulls and bloody daggers in their grasp, juxtaposed with a background display of moths. There’s definitely a hint of some sort of apocalyptic war between the two, or so I thought. “It’s not that straight forward,” said Maxim, “people say no they’re evil butterflies, they’re killing all the insects. It’s open to interpretation and when people say that to me I’ll say how do you know they’re attacking the insects? Or how do you know the insects aren’t attacking the butterflies? They’re just taking up arms and protecting themselves.”
Whichever way you want to interpret the paintings, there’s more than enough for you to analyse. The heavy layering of resin is present in most of the exhibits giving an interesting perspective of MM’s subjects. Most notably ‘Protection’, a piece depicting a figure covered in resin, over an abstract, acrylic background. Resin is a media not so commonly loved by many artists due to its heavy duty and industrial complexities. Maxim’s initial flirtations with it certainly did nothing to break away from these negative connotations:
“It’s funny actually, someone came around to my house to look at my paintings and he looked at my stuff and said, ‘you’ve chosen a hard medium to use.’ It is, but it’s trial and error and trying to use it to the best of its ability. The first paintings I did I got a bit carried away doing three or four paintings, one had a gold leaf on it and other expensive materials and I went out and thought, yeah lets cover it in resin because I saw something covered in resin on the internet and I thought it looked really good. So I went to a flooring place that dealt with kitchen floors, I spoke to the sales guy and he said this would be good, it’s not too heavy and it’ll dry quite thin and spread thin. I told him I was going to put it on painting and he said it would be fine, got back and covered the paintings instead of testing just one. I left it and it looked good as it was setting and then the next day I came down and looked at it and it had all bubbled up and gone white cloudy, I totally ruined four paintings.”
Maxim, quite clearly, has now mastered it, with crystal clear and glossy resin finishes layered up to create an almost 3D effect. The projected lighting on the exhibits certainly brings the resin and the colours to life too. You leave the exhibition feeling as if you’ve substituted reality for a tea brake in melancholia’s kitchen. I enjoyed this exhibition, a refreshing change to the sometime banalities of conventional art viewing.
Maxim is currently working on The Prodigy’s new album out next year so be sure to keep an ear out for that too.
LepidopTerror, the debut exhibition by MM Art, ran from 15 – 26 September 2011. For more information visit www.mm-gallery.com
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