Artist talk with Max Middlewood
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'FEAR OR DEATH', 2021

Mixed media on canvas 

82x102cm

Tell us about yourself.

I'm Max, 22 years old. Born and raised in Northampton, England for most of my life, but have spent the past few years between Bristol and Devon.  I'm self taught and have never had an art lesson, however, I submitted my portfolio and was luckily given a place on a Fine Art Degree course, despite the fact that I have no arts-related qualifications, so I am very grateful.  I am currently in my first year of study, but still make most of my work from my bedroom, as I did before.  I was going to study sociology a couple of years ago, but had to drop out due to sickness, which is when I started painting. It completely consumed me and has become my only real passion, however I adore music too.

Where did your passion for art begin?

When I first became very ill and was struggling to get out of bed or out of the house for long periods of time, I discovered painting and the joys of art, which gave me a purpose in life and a reason to keep going. I had never had any purpose in my life before I started making art, so I am eternally grateful to have stumbled across it, and it has been the only real way of expressing myself since.

How would you describe your work to someone?

 I’m not sure which categories my work would fall into.Probably somewhere between neo-expressionism and abstraction.. But, I’m not totally sure! I would mainly describe my work as very personal and intimate, and sometimes fairly chaotic!

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'UNTITLED', 2021

Mixed media on canvas 

60x81cm 

What are you currently working on?

 I am just in a constant cycle of making work from my bedroom at the moment, however once more space becomes available again I do plan to 

create some much larger scale compositions that are a bit more dominating and have more of a presence.

When you start a new work or project, do you plan what you’re going to create or do you improvise? 

My work is always a visual representation of what’s going on inside, so this can constantly shift, even during the painting process, meaning I will never know the exact outcome. Although, I do often plan the rough composition in my head beforehand, and think about which colours, ideas and symbols might go where. I also paint a fair bit about my past experiences and memories, maybe as a way to try to help deal with them, so they often make appearances in the composition too.

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'Untitled', 2021

Mixed media on canvas 

36x46cm

Can you highlight some of your influences and discuss how your influences have made an impact on you and your practice?

My main influences are my mental and physical disorders, as they completely dominate most of my life and give it an intensity that I try to represent as best I can in my paintings. I am constantly trying to turn these harsh realities into something positive, and my work lets me do that. They are the reason I started creating and probably always will be! My favourite artist of all time is Francis Bacon, who has had a huge impact on me, as I adore the honesty and intimacy in his work. Both his and Frida Kahlo’s work (who I also love) also touch on themes around mortality and death a lot, and as I think about these things everyday, I feel quite a connection there.

 

What are your plans for the remainder of this year?

I really hope to be able to exhibit some of my work this year, as I have never had the chance to exhibit anything as of yet. I also intend to just create as much as possible! Life is short!