Painter Max Berry about fear, Banksy and Papaya
Max Berry's thing are paintings, landscape paintings. He paints a picture full of natural, warm colors, that are very attractive to the viewer and make you want to morph into his world.
He grew up in Katherine, Northern Territory and is now living in Sydney. His latest exhibition, which was very well received, was called “Return to Slow” and it was a show full of Ireland landscape magic, whom Max Berry created in answer to his residency in Ireland. For this year he has a solo exhibition coming up in August, and he is planning a visit to a small town called Hill End (which is notorious in Australian art history) to visit his mentor Lino Alvarez, a Mexican ceramicist and chef as well as the other resident artists.
When did you know you want to be an artist?
What makes you want to paint?
I reckon there’s a very basic almost primal feeling of satisfaction from making new works, I haven’t found anything else that can offer this feeling. I’m lucky enough to be in a position to sustain an art practice, so I’m going to give it a red hot go.
Do you think your work has a consistent style?
I hope people can identify my work, my style or certain gestures but at the same time I guess it’s also weighing up the desire to evolve and experiment. I think it’s important to be wary of developing crutches as if you were using a limited vocabulary, works can become stale this way. But I’m always chewing over new ideas and new mediums to work with, and I certainly aim to imbue each with something of a consistent style, it’s a balancing act.
Anselm Adams once said, “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer — and often the supreme disappointment.” Do you think same can be applied to landscape paintings?
Oh yes! The supreme disappointment. Photography or painting, very few capture the true sense of time or place. The most difficult or the most rewarding part is in obsessing and selecting what record and how. I’ve stumbled on many places that are tired or uninspired, yet once back in the studio or months later can really resonate, it’s these places that I’m most excited about, these types of places that I want to test myself with.
How long are you usually working on a painting?
It can fluctuate awfully, sometimes minutes and others up to months. I work on a bunch at once, arrayed on the wall and work on whichever holds my attention that day. Usually, I rotate around a dozen at a time, often more than one at a time.
How do you know when to stop working on a successful work?
The ultimate dilemma! Probably why I have ended up working on a bunch at once. I guess it’s easier to negotiate with myself if there’s another work standing by which needs attention I can justify leaving one to be evaluated later on. In my experience, you can not be precious, and you should trust your instincts. Fear is the mind killer.
What makes someone an artist?
Do you feel like an adult?
Briefly, but the moment has passed.
Do you think childishness is important to be creative?
In the sense that you can abandon all preconceived ideas of creativity and dismiss all your lifetime of experience, then yes.
Can you name a few artists whose work you admire the most?
Isamu Noguchi, Wendy Sharpe, Le Corbusier, Henri Cartier Bresson, Georgia O’Keefe, Ian Fairweather. Those are the artists whose books are at the moment, off the shelf.
What is your favorite artwork?
Sol Lewitt’s “Structures”
What kind of art did you like ten years ago, and what kind of art do you like today?
All of it now and all of it then.
Who is the most overrated artist and who the most underrated artist?
Banksy, Claes Oldenburg.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
My favorite food is Papaya.
And lastly, could you live without art?
I don’t think I would spontaneously combust, but I’d most likely be grumpy.
Photo by Kurt Davies