Interview with Max Manning

Potential Figure Acrylic on canvas over panel 10 x 8 in.

Potential Figure
Acrylic on canvas over panel
10 x 8 in.

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make? 
My name is Max Manning and I am a painter. In the grand scheme of made things, the paintings I make are small. A primary ambition of my work is to create images that exemplify or evoke thoughts of interaction between human nature and artificiality. 

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works? 
Life I suppose. Having an in home studio allows me to make paintings that seem to just happen, almost to an absurd extent—by which I mean that they are not for anything or intended to function in any way. Even if I do work very hard in the studio, they just happen because, why not? or I felt like I needed them to. In my most naive and inspired moments, I think I truly believe that what I am doing is private.

Untitled (Teal Gesture) Acrylic on canvas over panel 10 x 8 in.

Untitled (Teal Gesture)
Acrylic on canvas over panel
10 x 8 in.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My spray bottle. I use water based paint, and my spray bray bottle is very important for keeping my paint open both on my palette and on the surface of the painting. I can’t really claim that there is any sort of conceptual aspect involved, but I enjoy the almost paradox of using water that is so natural and precious with acrylic paint that is plastic. Actually, maybe water is most important…

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them? 
Painting is dead/died/is dying— I think it is really hard to face the medium. I am very excited about the resurgence of painting that has happened, but I try my best to be a good art history student. History can be a cumbersome bit of baggage. I’m certainly interested in the discourses of contemporary painting, but I do my best to maintain some distance from it in the studio. I can’t say that I have any delusion of being original, so I try to be candid and almost frank with my work’s various influences, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for a belief in the alchemy of painting. Let’s say I like the idea of the paintings having footnotes, but not just being footnotes.

Untitled (Sneaky Color) Acrylic on canvas over panel 10 x 8 in.

Untitled (Sneaky Color)
Acrylic on canvas over panel
10 x 8 in.

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work? 
Wondering what the difference between being self-conscious and self- aware is—if that qualifies as a theme. This probably relays back to meditations on an irony/sincerity polarity and where I situate my own work upon it—and whether or not that is a fixed location. At some point I decided that I wanted to get my work to a place that is beyond my own comprehension. Maybe that’s obvious thing in relation to abstract art, but it seems that notion is lost at times in a lot of contemporary art. I’m okay with being the fool or the butt of the joke for the sake of the paintings.

Painting language is something I have been fixated on for years. I revel in the elasticity of the medium. This is evident in the combinations in my work—geometric and gestural, thick and thin paint, bright and dim color, and so on and so forth. In part, the idea here is that disharmony aptly mirrors our societal behavior and is something that makes sense to us and is perhaps even mundane.   

Sticks Acrylic on canvas over panel 10 x 8 in.

Sticks
Acrylic on canvas over panel
10 x 8 in.

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)? 
There are a lot of them. Andrew Masullo’s work is very important for me. I try very hard to not to rip him off. But I really admire the tremendous discipline that I see in his work. He seems bullet proof. What are you going to say to a guy that works on an 8 x 10 for a decade or more? Carry on or well done I suppose. More artists I greatly respect and admire: Thomas Nozkowski, Forrest Bess, Peter Shear, Mille Guldbeck Jessica Simorte, Frank Herrmann, Richard Tuttle, and Russell Tyler.

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given? 
You can’t do that…