I first met Max at art school in 2003. He’s a memorable sort of fellow with such an intense gaze. I’m stoked on the direction his art has moved towards since he left Vancouver to reside in Berlin.
Hey Max, long time no talkie….I’m glad we can do this interview. Interview….schminterview…..I have to ask because I am truly interested to know when did you first start making art?
I don’t really know.I guess as soon as I realized that someone could actually be an “artist” is when I started making art.
I love your work, it seems to be somewhat inspired by a figurative narrative, could you speak a little about your process from inception to completion.
A genre of painting I was looking at for a while was neo-classicism, but I think it had more to do with their scale and their use of allegory, and the ideological shift around the paintings themselves. I guess I appreciate the false framework that’s present in allegorical works because it opens up this possibility of comparative analysis. I mean, they’ve obviously inherited a sort of bad reputation since being used by extremist world powers, but beyond that I think that the use of symbolic works can be salvaged …… it can be a great tool to understand power structures.
The quasi-figurative works I think you were talking about were a riff on some anselm reyle sculptures. I was interested in the symbolic function of his work at the time, and mine were also trying to hint at some figurative elements of a classical period. i was coating the sculptures in these veneers that you can get from hardware stores, spray-on pink marble or whatever, which are basically for painting styrofoam props. It’s funny to think that my crappy styrofoam sculptures will probably outlast anything made by any of the historical empires, from like, Egypt onward.
Is the idea more important that the outcome?
Maybe I’m more interested in the relationship the two have to each other. To use Vancouver as an example, i found that there were really two camps, the sort of conceptual vs. the other one, but dividing or classifying work like this really limits the potential of a work. In school there was sort of a pragmatic framework where someone tells you that you have to come up with an idea and then find a means of articulating in “art,” and I think works should actually try to complex-ify this relationship. I guess I don’t know if reducing a work to a fundamental “this” or “that” is really a useful approach.
Moving from Vancouver to Berlin two years back, how has this changed your art?
Moving away from Vancouver definitely allowed me room for experimentation. I found that in Vancouver one has to essentially take a stance regarding recent art-history there, and because of the homogeneity of the art scene, everyone is somehow implicated in it. The tension this produces is good though, and there is a rigorous dialogue there, but ultimately i found it pretty one-dimensional. i think that part of the issue is that the art scene in Vancouver is making a strong attempt to historicize itself, and in doing so is limiting a lot of the potential for a greater diversity of work.
Berlin, I think, affords artists a greater sense of agency over how their work is perceived… and of course the economics of Berlin are also pretty unique. I was talking to a friend in Vancouver who was saying that there’s an emerging trend for kids just out of school there to immediately begin thinking about how to sell their work. His point was basically that you need to enter the market immediately to survive. And I don’t think that happens to the same degree in Berlin. Maybe I feel like there’s not the same anxiety about saleability because you can sort of survive anyways. I mean, it’s never good to have to work for someone else if you’re trying to focus on your own stuff, but it is possible to establish a sort of balance here in some way.
Would you speak a little about the day to day struggle of making work?
Well, establishing and maintaining that balance I just mentioned can be difficult. There’s never enough time, or money, or whatever. Managing the logistics of making your own work when operating within someone else’s time frame can be exhausting, and when your put into a position of dependence, there’s not a lot of choice but to accrue all sorts of debt, financial and otherwise, which can be really menacing. But being in a supportive community really helps alleviate pressure, and allows a sort of mutual recognition. Something that’s recently been really great is that in the past year, Mathieu Malouf, Martin Thacker and myself have started a shape-shifting project called Larry’s here. It’s the first time I’ve ever collaborated or worked closely with anyone else creatively. We each invest whatever it is we’re capable of at the time, and being able to disperse the responsibility is really useful.
What inspired you to start Larry’s, I know you three share a studio in Berlin, did it form out of a lack of visibility in the new surroundings?
Um, i guess we initially started Larry’s as a way to subsidize our studio with beer sales from events. But that didn’t really pan out. It has definitely been a great way to become involved in a community here, and the visibility or recognition that’s come out of it has really been valuable.
Could you inspire us by naming some artists you look at?
i recently rediscovered Paul Thek. This sort of profound revulsion i get when looking at his work is incredible. also, i just read this piece by Shep Steiner, who, I think, is really a boon to Vancouver.
Agreed, Shep is a credit to his profession, are you familiar with Cork Caucus?
Totally just googled it. It sounds really good. I’m all for smart people getting together and throwing down.