Max Manning: Seeking Human Connection

Architerior had the honour of interviewing painter Max Manning, who shared some inspiring life lessons for artists, and humans in general. In this interview he opens up about his view on art and being an artist.

Where do you live and practice?

I currently live and work in Huntsville, Texas, which is in the Houston area. My days are split between making stuff in my studio and my job at a university as a gallery coordinator. So I am very fortunate to orbit my daily energies around Art.

How did your art career start?

I hope to always be an amateur artist first and foremost, even if money gets involved. As difficult as being an artist can be, I still love it. Drawing was something I always did growing up, and as a teenager I started to think seriously about perusing some type of creative profession. Like many, the stakes were raised for me when I decided to go to art school as an undergraduate. I bounced around a few different areas of focus before forming a strong identity as a painter. Bowling Green State University was where painting became an obsession for me, and I had wonderful professors that nurtured that.

Untitled (CO39), Acrylic and Collage on Paper 2017 & Untitled (CVS47), Acrylic on Canvas 2017

When did you know that you were meant to be working with art?

I don’t really believe in fate, but I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. When I was around twelve years old I made a pencil drawing of a clock-tower, that I worked on for months. My source image at the time was a black and white photo-copy print out of a photograph, and I remember at that time, I had a light bulb moment in realizing that there was a distillation happening in the image that I tried to capture in the drawing. I was utterly seduced by the magic of image making, and I still am so many years later. It sounds dramatic to say that this strongly impacted the trajectory of my life, but it did. I think I decided then that I would hold on to this way past the point of it getting ugly.

Describe your art style: materials, forms, colours. Do you have preferences?

Sure, I suppose I have many preferences. I prefer the unusual over the usual, I prefer color over the absence of color, and I prefer sincerity over irony. I make paintings, and most of them are reasonably sized and have aspirations of stimulating intellectual and emotional activity in the mind of a viewer. My primary surface of choice is raw canvas or paper, and my material of choice is acrylic paint. The canvas being raw is important because I am able to embrace its specific materiality in different ways when it is raw. I start by making a mark of some kind and continue by responding to what is happening on the surface of the painting and in the image of the painting. This process is improvised and communicative but also slow and pensive. My work is primarily an investigation of language, and through that different concepts can be addressed. Color can inflect tone or affect an emotional response.  I use a basic vocabulary to build a visual scenario that will ultimately exist in a way that closely mirrors a metaphor. Paintings exist in time and space and have the ability to transport us in time and space.

Untitled (CVS49), Acrylic on Canvas over Panel 2017

What’s the hardest part of being an artist?

Finding a suitable day job is tough. I feel very fortunate and grateful for my current situation in that regard, but that is something that has taken time. If you are a young artist reading this, don’t beat yourself up for not being whatever enough. The world at large will take care of that.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

Seeking human connection. Yes, there may be periods of isolation while working in the studio, but that very isolation can yield new perspectives on what it means to be a member of society. There are moments of life in which you will be utterly present, and you might be able to make something that alters the way an individual filters the world around them. This may be uncommon, but it’s not impossible. Also, with any luck you may never have to be a real grown up, and you will sleep like a baby at night knowing that you are giving it your best shot.

Where have you mainly exhibited your artwork? Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra important to you?

The internet. Social media offers new avenues for artists to exhibit not only their work but also their practice and life. However, I have shown in many different kinds of exhibition spaces, and I still cherish the actuality of seeing physical art objects. In graduate school we had our thesis exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was so much fun to have such a big exhibition with everyone showing what they had come up with in a world class exhibition space. I am proud to know all of the great people I met in that program.

Though my exhibition with them is yet to come, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with TW Fine Art. I have had work available through them for several months at this point, and I highly value the dialogue I have had with them. The moral support alone helps me resist becoming discouraged.

What are you working on right now?

Lots of paintings — enough that it feels unhealthy and irresponsible. Some are really bad and won’t make it out into the world. The strongest ones, or the one’s I feel are strongest at that particular moment of selection, will head to Brisbane, Australia for an exhibition at TW Fine Art. I also have a show this summer with Jessica Simorte at Skylab Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, which I could not be more excited about!

Untitled (CVS60), Acrylic on Canvas over Panel

What does art mean to you?

Art is one of the best things humans are capable of. Love is also pretty good. Art has the ability to make life better. It exists in spite of the boundaries of reality. Its uselessness is very important and useful. Art has the capacity to fill voids left by logical and pragmatic modes of thought and production.  It can scratch those invisible existential itches that are hard to locate, let alone reach.

What inspires you to create? Where do you get ideas and energy?

Empty rooms and blank pieces of paper. These can be filled with messages to others that may seem as though they were made specifically to let them know that someone else out there was up against it too once.

Do you have any artists that you admire extra much?

Yes, there are so many. 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, Alain Biltereyst, and so many more. I look at paintings on the internet like a fiend.

If you could exhibit your art anywhere/with anyone, where/who would it be?

Anyone in the list above would be great, and I would likely be thrilled to hang in any gallery that shows the work of any of these artists.


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