“Maxwell consumes the consumer culture that would otherwise consume him”
-Alfie Strong, Curator of Cella Shows
At the core of Maxwell Rushton’s art practice is a complicated, compelling exploration of the artist-as-a-brand.
Graduating from Leeds University of Art in 2012 with 1st Class Honours, he recalls making a clear decision to face the corporate-artist symbiosis head on, rather than attempting to stay apart from a system whose voracious hunger for innovation is only matched by its capacity for inclusivity.
His position on art in relation to branding is perhaps perfectly summed up by the conundrum of Outsider Art: an artless form of art-making transformed into 100% pure commercial gold and incorporated into the system of art production as a commercial genre.
Maxwell’s chosen aesthetic therefore polarises a commercially-saturated existence and a world that resists it, placing commercialism in a binary with the ideal of ‘purity’; his use of art created by children directs us to this tension.
As a young boy, he would repeatedly draw a set of four vertical marks, a motif of mark making that would follow him into adulthood. These marks originate from the primal spontaneous expression of a child, an expression still devoid of any of the influences of adulthood which can not be attributed or interpreted by schooled thought. As Maxwell describes “I was making these lines instinctively, it’s reflexive, they always felt very natural to leave behind.” It was not until he fully matured as an artist that he enacted a metamorphosis of this motif into a branded logo of self-commodification. Through this transformation of an innate, authentic gesture into the insignia of his brand, he draws light upon the perversion of purity for profit, enacted by a society in the thrall of consumerism.
Intertwining performance, painting, drawing and sculpture, Maxwell’s mixed media endeavours have explored homelessness, mental illness and our brand-embalmed society in a novel manner that is neither critical nor supportive. That these subjects have a personal resonance for Maxwell is important: he is not removed from the inspiration of his practice, it is something that is entirely personal to him. In his own words, the subjects choose him, not the other way round.
In his work Buy In Bleed Out Maxwell commodified himself by painting 20 pints of his own blood into an epic-scale replica of his logo, physically turning himself into a piece of advertising.
From this, to his project Drawn Out, in which he filled four 10 meter rolls of paper with approximately 10 million hand drawn lines, to video footage Left Out which has been viewed by 40 million people, his “thought-provoking” (Huffington Post) works have begun to establish him in the art world.
A major and consistent theme in Maxwell’s ongoing commentary is the use of his own blood as a medium.
In a society where the subordination of all measures of value to money is at the very least, a major point of discussion, the use of the most vital of commodities (blood) offers a commentary on what the artist must give in order to pursue their art.
More over, Maxwell’s conceptual manoeuvres often leave the viewer uncertain as to their position in relation to his art. Are they implicated in the system, or have they absolved themselves of it?
Utilising the languages of the advertising industry, he creates pithy self-aware comments on various aspects of the subordination of cultural values and ethics to the industry of production and consumerism we live within.
Intertwined in this is a subtle conversation with the lineage of artists who have explored what it means to become a brand, such as Manzoni, or Klein, artists who consistently integrated their status as an integral part of their work.
That Maxwell brings his own blood as a medium into this heritage is refreshing: in a world so utterly wrapped up in the hyperreality of the social media diaspora, what more real and grounding a medium to use than human blood?
It is said that a fee in blood is required to cross over into the higher realms- to free ourselves from the mundane everyday world, to become that arbiter (or synonymously, shaman) we must sacrifice a part of ourselves.
I think it is no coincidence that Maxwell uses blood to illustrate his passage into becoming a brand, a logo. This is what is most exciting in his work- he is, by virtue of an ancient ritualistic shedding of blood, paying for his passage into the world of the simulacrum, the world of the brand.
- Joshua Vaughan (Co-Curator of Exchange)
Selected solo shows
2016 – Inside Out, Exchange, London
2015 – Drawn Out, MMX Gallery, London.
2014 – Industry & Artistry, West London Art Factory, London.
2013 – Sonic, North Bar, Leeds.
2012 – Post Product, Cellar Shows, Leeds.
2011 – Mong & Ming, LAB, Leeds.
Selected group shows
2015 – Prima, PoptArt Gallery, London.
2014 – BCN Art (Barcelona International Art Fair), Barcelona.
2014 – The Day Job, The Brick Lane Gallery, London.
2014 – Day Job, Hoxton Basement, London.
2016 – ‘Inside Out’ at Exchange – London
2014-2015 – ‘Drawn Out’ -France
2009-2012 – BA (Hons) Fine Art, Leeds College of Art, Leeds, UK (First-Class).
V&P Tassis Sculpture Award 2016 (first prize)
“Eye-opening” – The True Activist
“Act of courage” – Frame Magazine
“Thought provoking” – Huffington Post
“Challenges our attitudes” – The Big Issue
“Unconventional and Moving” – ARTiculAction
“Utterly shocking and awe-inspiring” – India Art n’Design
“Unique ability to both shock and move his audience” – Arteviste
“Hoofin, this guy is dope” – Tom Hardy (actor/owner of Bingo Bango 2)
“Causing a stir throughout the international art scene” – Lodown Magazine
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