Max Prus (b. 1987)

Max Prus produces paintings by way of investigating the complex mechanisms that constitute contemporary human existence.

For his graduating exhibition at the RA Schools in 2015, hundreds of watercolours were displayed within a kinetic framework. Detailed paintings in intimate handmade books metamorphosed on automatic page turners behind the glass of vitrines. Translucent images painted onto the gallery’s panoramic skylight, veiled and unveiled by motorised roller blinds set on a timer, shifted the gallery’s lighting and ambience. Frames fitted with lights illuminated the pictures within. The imagery appeared to bring together and reflect a society of all echelons interacting with their most primordial instincts and desires. Human relationships with progressive technologies and automated systems were brought into question. He announced at the time “For this show I will present an installation based on trips to a seaside town where nobody is in control.”

That was then, this is now:

I couldn’t do then what I do now and I wouldn’t do now what I did then, though it is part of the same journey. I have become very familiar with paint and its properties over the years. To put it simply, the journey has been the continuous refinement of one chemistry experiment; a cauldron stagnating and brewing in the mind, seeped in to muscle memory, and leaked onto canvas or paper. The chemistry experiment is a bifurcation; distinctive systems cultivated for watercolour and oil colour.

A painter is reassured by empirical knowledge while marching into the abyss. An awareness of paint’s nature, how it will react with itself and how it will sit in the world once settled, can be a comfort, a safety net. When something chemically unexpected occurs then one must grasp onto it, like fishing, then develop it, make it one’s own, one’s offspring. Make it familiar. Harness it. If it curdles, make sure it curdles correctly. That is progress. Patience, diligence, and respect of materials play important roles. If one is disciplined then the outcome of pigment applied to a flat surface might be more palatable than on previous attempts.

The paintings are often made while travelling. Temporary studios are set up and the locale directly feeds into the paintings. A portable palette and paintbox is home. Cars, trains, and planes are useful. Manufacturing is continuous and though the situations depicted are always different, the resulting objects are connected through a direct observation of existence. Something as humdrum as a walk down a street can inspire such terror and horror on occasion that it is etched into the mind permanently. When this is experienced one has a feeling to be dutiful. Paint is sanctified onto a flat surface, transmuted into an image, where it will be preserved, cherished, hated, loved, protected for years to come. It will just exist, be there. The abyss turned inside out. Safe, reassuring. Things oscillate. The world is a paradox. When paint is laid down it is new but then it stays the same, a still image. The painter is an honest interloper trying to be an acceptable and useful citizen.

Max Prus, February 2022


Born: 1987 in Reading

RA Schools student from 2012 to 2015

Gender: Male

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