Get to know TAM's Director / Head Curator Max Presneill with VoyageLA
As a rather disruptive and disreputable working class young man in England I found my way clear of a life of questionable choices via art. Although I had always drawn, as most children do, starting with copying from comic books and such, I did not take art seriously and a future as a professional artist never occurred to me. When things were particularly tough I turned to art to help me believe that the world could be bigger and better than it was for me at that time and that ideas mattered. It became my hidden intellectual world and a way to feel I had something worthwhile to say. I started to paint and read about art constantly. The more I learned the more I fell in love with art and with Modernism. Herbert Read’s Concise History of Modern Painting was the turning point and his essay on Cubism made me realize that how we perceive the world is through the mind, more than the eye. This opened the floodgates for me. Since then art has been the driving force in my life. University followed and then a career exhibiting worldwide slowly grew from modest ambitions to where it currently stands
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My large scale oil paintings are mostly abstract, with occasional pockets of figuration (sometimes skulls) thrown in. They get painted in stages which means they build up textures over time. Sometimes a painting can be reworked continuously for years. Rarely they can take a week or two, but it does happen now and then. They become a record of a set of decisions about leaving marks and signs of my presence. I am interested in what the act of painting means and how it can explore multiple avenues of enquiry simultaneously. From existential questions, to an awareness of presence and mortality, to notions of masculine codes and gender, all can be encompassed, for me, within the structures of thought and application of material that painting represents. When I die my paintings are what will remain. They contain my memories, hopes and dreams, my thoughts about what it meant to be me at a given place and time.
I hope people will remember to indulge in life while they can. This mortal coil is short and I intend to go loudly, laughing and fighting, as I hope the paintings reflect and that people will consider their own mortality through them and to ‘dance like nobody’s watching’. I also hope they will find them interesting, to admire them as paintings with some skill.
Concentrate on making the work, not living the lifestyle. Learn all you can. Visit galleries and museums to learn more techniques and possible approaches and to equally learn what not to do. Support other artists. Go to their openings. Be realistic about what galleries are supposed to do for you. Don’t be an ass to work with. Be generous with your time, thoughts and willingness to help.
What I wish I knew earlier is that being an artist is somewhat Sisyphusian – the continual struggle has its ups and downs but never stops. Artists do not retire, we die. The next painting will always be better in our minds and hence we continue making. We never find the ‘answer’ we just ask the questions. With that can come an all-encompassing myopia that we need to be aware of and to combat. We need to remember to actively have a life that gives us time away from all this, a space to breath. My wife, LaLena Lewark, brought that to me a little later in life and the lesson is that life can be fuller, richer and art making more fulfilling without the need to be the cliché of the solitary artist.
I show my paintings all around the world (most regularly at TW Fine Art in Brisbane, Australia, if you happen to be Down Under and also in Berlin) but the best places to see them in Los Angeles are at Durden and Ray, a gallery in downtown LA, and Garboushian Gallery in Beverly Hills. In 2018 I will be showing in London, Rome, Beijing and some other spots globally.
The best ways people can support is to attend the gallery openings when I am showing (and occasionally buying my work never hurts!) and to tell other people about my work, if you like it. Follow my Instagram account and check my Facebook page for updates. Making art and then exhibiting it is about communication and growing an audience for it. You can help that by introducing other people to my art – the more the merrier.
"We have a very experimental approach to curating methodologies, a very personable relationship with the artists, an informal interaction with our audiences and a fun program. You can come in, it’s always free, see the shows, chat with staff and even talk directly to the curators (unheard of in most art museums).
We are an open and inviting place and people can become personally involved with our projects, feeling an intimate connection with the TAM. How many art museums can you say that about?"