At the core of Maxwell Rushton’s art practice is a complicated, compelling exploration of the artist-as-a-brand.
Graduating from Leeds University of Art in 2012 with 1st Class Honours, he recalls making a clear decision to face the corporate-artist symbiosis head on, rather than attempting to stay apart from a system whose voracious hunger for innovation is only matched by its capacity for inclusivity.
His position on art in relation to branding is perhaps perfectly summed up by the conundrum of Outsider Art: an artless form of art-making transformed into 100% pure commercial gold and incorporated into the system of art production as a commercial genre.
Maxwell’s chosen aesthetic therefore polarises a commercially-saturated existence and a world that resists it, placing commercialism in a binary with the ideal of ‘purity’; his use of art created by children directs us to this tension.
As a young boy, he would repeatedly draw a set of four vertical marks, a motif of mark making that would follow him into adulthood. These marks originate from the primal spontaneous expression of a child, an expression still devoid of any of the influences of adulthood which can not be attributed or interpreted by schooled thought. As Maxwell describes “I was making these lines instinctively, it’s reflexive, they always felt very natural to leave behind.” It was not until he fully matured as an artist that he enacted a metamorphosis of this motif into a branded logo of self-commodification. Through this transformation of an innate, authentic gesture into the insignia of his brand, he draws light upon the perversion of purity for profit, enacted by a society in the thrall of consumerism.
Intertwining performance, painting, drawing and sculpture, Maxwell’s mixed media endeavours have explored homelessness, mental illness and our brand-embalmed society in a novel manner that is neither critical nor supportive. That these subjects have a personal resonance for Maxwell is important: he is not removed from the inspiration of his practice, it is something that is entirely personal to him. In his own words, the subjects choose him, not the other way round.