I absolutely love artist Maxwell Rushton. He’s a British artist who knows his own process http://maxwellrushton.com/ and totally gets what contemporary art is all about. He’s an artist! He’s really taking on convention and consumer culture with his work and I think he’s brilliant. Here’s our cool chat, but first …
“… I'd like to change how people understand marketing and how it affects them. Since so many things enter our lives by somehow being marketed to us, I think it’s about time some artist make some crazy shit about it ...”
MICHAEL: Hey Maxwell, Your work is very intriguing. What I see on your website strikes me as ironic and a parody of contemporary society. It may even be a bit snarky. How do you describe your body of work this far?
MAXWELL: Hello mate, I think what I'm doing more and more is taking inspiration from marketing and commercialism and pushing it into a piece of art, whether it be a painting or sculpture. At the moment, I'm really enjoying making art that expresses both sides of my feelings toward commercial culture. The recent pieces have become less of a direct challenge to brands, advertising and marketing and more of an ironic or satirical collaboration with them. This way of working means I'm able to adopt the characteristics of the mainstream in order to stand provocatively close to it.
MICHAEL: Commercialism and marketing conjure up images of bright color and bold graphics. They also must be able to convince people that they want and need products even when they may not really want or need them. Do you explore this in your work?
MAXWELL: Yes. The ways in which commercialisation on an industrial scale shapes our desires is something that I explore massively at the moment. I like to look at brands and the way they project the product as being something more than its physical properties and how we as consumers believe them. Just as I make work about the products we buy off the shelves, I make art about my position within the art industry.
MICHAEL: Wouldn't it be great if we were able to convince people to buy art they way advertisers convince them to buy products? I keep wondering how we can do this. We keep hearing that the economy is getting better. Is that the case in the UK? Are people buying art?
MAXWELL: The economy in the UK is bad, like the majority, I work a full- time job (bar man) and still live far below the poverty line. The grossly unfair distribution of wealth is the reason I don't put a price tag on my art, I operate by a method of trading which doesn't favour the person with the biggest wallet.
MICHAEL: Do you think that the art industry is different from other commercial industries?
MAXWELL: The art of an artist acts the same way as that of an advertisement to a product. The art world is a machine that lives off easily- marketable artists; it is less concerned with craftsmanship. That's the artist's priority - well it used to be. When you change the way people see you, then you change the way people see your art. It's a celebrity and money-oriented industry just like any other commercial industry. My art embodies this shift in art practice.
MICHAEL: When you're involved in the actual process of making art, what's that like? Is the process more intellectual, emotional or spiritual?
MAXWELL: I am a major component of my artwork; we are the same thing. My beliefs and habits are intrinsically connected to the work I make, so it's hard for me to define (the process) at points in the work I create. I am the brand and the work is the advertising for me and the other way around. The art that is made comes from an ongoing intellectual, emotional and spiritual response to my surroundings.
MICHAEL: What goes through your mind while you're creating art? Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what kind? What drives your need to create? What's the end goal?
MAXWELL: What goes through my mind? I guess I feel an enormous amount of satisfaction when I'm creating something, when I'm not working on something artistically, I tend to feel like I'm waiting or just not really happy.
I like listening to all sorts of music when I'm physically making work, Death Grips, Bombay Bicycle Club, Neutral Milk Hotel, Tallest Man On Earth, Daniel Johnston etc. When I'm planning or writing, I need have to silence; I can get distracted far too easily. I don't know what drives me, an imposed cultural thrust for recognition drives me to make my art public, apart from that, I imagine I'd create for the sake of it. I don't seek the fortune.
The end goal is to be a regarded as a real artist; that would the greatest honour for me. I aspire to change a few lives through the medium which is responsible to for changing my life. I think that has a nice karma to it. I had a pretty rocky upbringing and was a bit of a struggle to control. When I was a kid, my mum put me in a youth hostel with other little maniacs after I had got caught spraying graffiti and was soon to be expelled from another school. I started painting in my room on old table tops and sheets of wood that I found on the street. I found I could channel myself through making art. I started going to school and learned about the work of other artists and was convinced about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Since then, there has never been a Plan B. Artists can challenge things larger than themselves and be victorious. They are examples of how we don't have to be complicit to social standers and how the merit of expression defines someone beyond their ability to deal with suppression.
I'd like to change how people understand marketing and how it affects them. Since so many things enter our lives by somehow being marketed to us, I think it’s about time some artist make some crazy shit about it.
MICHAEL: Finally Maxwell, what's the point of contemporary art? Most people don't buy art and many artists aren't necessarily selling a lot. So what's the point? Why even continue to create art?
MAXWELL: Our thirst for beauty will ensure we continue to create art. Art sales for prints and originals have increased and art has never been more affordable or accessible.
The point is that there would be no point in me if I didn't make art. I am defined by the art I make. I couldn't care less about someone wanting to own my work; it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to me. As I said before, I don't even accept money for my art. What's important to me is to have the means to make more elaborate pieces and I believe more opportunities will present themselves as I trade my art than if I were to take money. Call me a romantic or even a fantasist, but I don't think money makes the world go round.
MICHAEL: Thanks Maxwell, Nice chat.
Check out Maxwell Rushton at http://maxwellrushton.com/.