So stoked to share the work of Max Manning! I was instantly obsessed with his fresh abstracts, which pack a lot of punch considering their smallish size. I love that each one is a solid individual and yet when displayed in a pack, they are immensely powerful. And here's a great Q&A to boot!
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Hi Max! You're currently based in Texas, but you went to school in Ohio and have shown all over the place! Is there a particular reason for Texas?
I’m actually from a small town in Ohio called St. Marys, but I have moved around a lot over the past ten years or so. My partner Jessica Simorte and I moved to Texas, with our dog Zibby, a little over a year ago when she accepted a faculty position at a university where she teaches in the art department.
You have a really great understanding of how color and form relate to one another, and while you work in a similar canvas format consistently, each canvas is unique from the next. How do you get started? How long does a piece typically take? What is your process for laying out the composition?
A lot of what I do sort of glorifies the handmade. So I do a lot of things in a way that is much more difficult than necessary. For example, I use a jig saw to cut my panels, which is where the wavy edge comes in. This pertains to the idea of handmadeness, and I also believe that the energy of the edge of the painting will carry over into the image. Once my panel is made and the canvas is stretched over it, there is a period where I have a staring contest with it—I always lose.
Then I put something down on the unprimed canvas. I like to use raw canvas because it’s pretty terrible to paint on. Its dry, rough, and a little bit unpredictable in terms of how the paint will dry. This makes for paintings that have a pulse. The feedback I get from the material really invigorates my improvisational approach to forming an image. Often, there is a lot happening on the surface that needs to be handled and that starts to play in to the compositions. Color is what ties what I do to daily perceptual experience. I draw from mundane things like grocery store graphic design and advertisements. The way these colors ultimately find their form is often through trial and error. There is a lot of educated guessing and then more educated guessing. But really this is hard for me to articulate because most of these marriages of color and form happen deep in the abyssal plain of a flow state where I am truly in touch with what is happening in the image and not at all self-aware.
What is your studio like, or what is a typical day in the studio?
I have a shared in home studio, which I love. Having a studio in your living space inevitably puts your work in the center of your daily life. So even on days that I don’t paint, I am not really out of the studio. A typical day in the studio is about as good as it gets for me. There is often music playing and Jess may be working right on the other side of the room. My wall usually has a somewhat chaotic scattering of paperwork pinned up. I always make sure I have a lot of different things going on at once. In fact, I never really worry about finishing anything, I am much more concerned with starting more things and trying to keep the process fresh and interesting for myself. Conclusion comes in one way or the other eventually.
Who or what are some of your major influences?
I am in debt to many who have done things better and prior to the things I am doing today. Andrew Masullo is one my favorite painters, and his work is just tremendous. I first discovered his work as I was getting ready to show work for my thesis in grad school. I had been really struggling with certain aspects of my identity as a painter, especially in relationship to scale. I was kind of jumping back and forth between making these really big paintings on canvas and these small funky shaped panel paintings. Something clicked for me when I saw his work, and it was hugely inspirational to me.
I also love the work of Mary Hielmann, Elizabeth Murray, Andrew Masullo, Tomma Abts, Thomas Nozkowski, Forrest Bess, Allison Miller, Peter Shear, Chris Martin, Chuck Webster, Trudy Benson, Lucy Mink Covello, Richard Tuttle, Russell Tyler, Jessica Simorte, Paolo Arao and so many more.
You've been out of university for a couple of years; what has been the most exciting/fulfilling aspect of pursuing an art career so far? What has been the most challenging part? Is there anything you know now that you wish you would have known when you were just getting started as an art student?
Art is unique in that it is potentially better to take a less direct path to get somewhere. So in that regard I do not regret much if any of the missteps I may have had in getting to this point. And for that matter, I am still very much learning—with no intention to stop. Being an artist is hard, and it can take a really long time to stand up on legs that are your own.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I recently teamed up with TW Fine Art in Brisbane, Australia for a print edition of a few of my works on paper. They are really great people to work with and there are some great artists on the roster there. I am thrilled to be a part of the whole thing. I will have a solo show there this fall.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Well, I would like to say thank you so much for reaching out and taking the time to inquire about what I do. The same goes to anyone who reads this and or takes the time to look at my work.
Find more at maxmanningart.com!
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