TUA: What are you currently working on? How do you usually start something new, are there particular choices you make?
Max: I am currently working on a series that revolves around extravagant and mindless festivities taking place in a desolate world. This project actually started after I
rewatched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and became fascinated with the ballroom scenes. My work is very collage-like and fragmented, always somewhere in between past and present, reality and fever dream. This is what parties are all about for me; trying to escape from a certain place and time into another world, blurring the lines between what is real and what is not. I have been working from an extensive archive of found photographs for years, and so I started to collect photographs of parties in the fifties and sixties, and mixed them up with mythological figures and elements from the present. Recently, I have shifted more towards the seventies and eighties, as I feel they relate more to the decadence and vanity we are surrounded by in the present.
TUA: Where do you find your ‘found photographs’, do you collect them in a special way? Are you ever interested in where those photographs come from?
Max: My archive consists of photos found on the internet as well as photo books from the flea market and family heirlooms. I even use images I find on the streets or in books. I often choose a subject that is in the background or somewhat anonymous, because it strips the image of recognizability. This way, instead of using memories, I construct my own.
TUA: Based on the description on your website it seems like you arrange those photographs/characters in ways as if to create a whole new scenario, like a play. What do your characters say? How do they interact? What do they represent?
Max: The scenarios I create within my paintings, by using collage-like techniques, often have something to do with power and vulnerability. I aim to shine a new light on my subjects. Medusa, for example, has been a recurring protagonist. She is often depicted as a monster, but what most people do not know is that she was actually a victim of rape. Prometheus, who killed her, received a lot of praise for what people considered a heroic act - I like to question heroism and add a bit of nuance to these stories.
TUA: Is every new work of yours an addition to the play, or are they individual new plays?
Max: My works are not necessarily different parts of one play, but are all constructed as one - with backdrops, props, and ‘actors’.
TUA: Have you ever thought about bringing your created characters/scenarios to life, to actually create a theatre piece ?
Max: I have played with the idea of an installation with paintings, sculptures, and readymades. It is a very ambitious idea, though, so I think it requires some more time and contemplation.
TUA: What are photographs for you?
Max: Anything taken with a camera, really. But what is most interesting for me is casual photography, because it shows accidents and is more honest about its subjects.
TUA: Can you tell us more about your dissertation project on ‘tragic female poets’? What inspired you so much about it? What did you discover?
Max: A friend of mine recommended a book by South-African poet Ingrid Jonker and I immediately fell in love with her words. A little while later another friend gave me a book about the life of Sylvia Plath for my birthday and I became so intrigued I decided to buy her poetry. There is something in the destructive force they carried, which was undoubtedly catalyzed by the misogyny of their contemporaries - that fascinated me. I discovered that there were lots of parallels in their
lives, even though they lived in completely different countries. Apart from that, it was a rather personal type of research- I investigated my urge to write and create, and realised that, above all, I want my work to be genuine, even if that means I have to show the ugly side of things.
TUA: On your website it says that you are influenced by ‘confessional poetry’; how would you describe what it is and how do you apply it to your own pieces of writing?
Max: Confessional poetry touches upon subjects that are often deemed controversial or too personal. I have very strong feelings about the way today’s society refuses to deal with any emotions or struggles that are not ‘instagrammable’, and I think this is very toxic. In all of my work I want to show things as they are, and often they are not pretty.
TUA: What is the difference between writing and painting for you? Are they completely different or do they depend on one another ?
Max: For me, painting and writing are two physically different disciplines that have a lot in common. I am very much into writing poems, although I am a bit too shy to publish them, and I think my paintings should be read the same way; as snapshots, pieces of time, with lots of room for interpretation and maybe even some riddles - I am never telling you everything.
TUA: Do you ever combine text with paintings? How do they work together?
Max: I have not combined text with my visual work a lot, as I think this combination can sometimes be too revealing. Whenever I add text, it is often in a bit of a cynical or ironic way.
TUA: How do you think humanity relates to mythology? How do the two come together, or where do they separate?
Max: What I find so fascinating about mythology is the fact that all of the subjects have such human qualities. Mythology is full of jealousy and vanity, for example. I think these deities, monsters and creatures are very human.
TUA: The word ‘hierarchy ’seems to come up a lot while browsing through your works, is it an important element?
Max: Hierarchy is definitely an important element when it comes to the ideas behind my works. I am both fascinated and appalled by inequality, it infuriates me. This is why I play with subjects such as toxic masculinity and male entitlement a lot too.
TUA: Why is grief and sadness such an inspiration for you?
Max: Because these are emotions a lot of people choose to ignore, which is not only harmful to themselves but to others too. I have often felt rather lonely dealing with these things and I think more honesty would be beneficial to today’s society.
TUA: What happens at ‘de Dapperstraat’? Can you tell us more about that concept? Is it still happening?
Max: A few years ago, a couple of my art school friends and I formed a collective and acquired a project space in Amsterdam (Dapperstraat). In this former shop we had our own studios and an exhibition space. We invited a different artist to come work there every month or two, with very surprising results. In my opinion, it was a big success. After we had to leave this particular space, we moved into a former anatomical theatre next to the Tropenmuseum. The wing we were in used to be a so-called ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Honestly, I was terrified whenever I ended up alone in the building in the evening, but overall it was a very inspiring experience. We hosted a couple of exhibitions there.
Unfortunately, afterwards we had to move into different studios and part ways. We still collaborate, though. An example of this is De Reeks, which is a series of artist publications that revolve around process. We started this project last year and are currently spreading artist books. De Reeks is a project that sprung from mutual frustration about artists being rendered invisible during the pandemic. My project partner Hilke Walraven (the initiator) and I wanted to take the artists out of the confinement of their studios and give people a chance to have a peek at their ‘hidden’ processes. We formed a collective of 17 artists, who each made their own publication revolving around their artistic process (in a limited edition)! The artists get complete artistic freedom, the only fixed things are page size, type of paper, number of pages and the way it’s bound together. They are all separate publications, however people can buy all booklets together at a reduced price
TUA: Do you think there are a lack of opportunities/spaces to use for artists, and do you think this lack leads to many artists feeling hopeless?
Max: I definitely think there is a lack of (affordable) spaces for artists. Our neoliberal government has denied artists a lot of funding and many of them are struggling. I think Amsterdam is a very good example of this; it is a
city renowned for its cultural riches, and yet many artists and project spaces are struggling to survive.
TUA: You have done a few residencies already, what were they like? How was your experience?
Max: Overall, my experience with residencies has been great. I have always felt very welcome, and it’s a delight to know that people are happy to have you somewhere. It always takes a bit of time to adjust, but after that it is very warm. My experience with WOW Amsterdam, in particular, was very pleasant. I was in a bit of a weird place when I started living there and it really helped me figure things out for myself, both on a personal and professional level. I ended up staying there for two years doing exhibitions and basically just having a great time. I was very sad when I had to leave.
TUA: How has your work developed over the years? Do you constantly look for new ways to learn/to grow/improve?
Max: I am constantly looking for ways to improve my work, both in a technical and a conceptual way. I definitely think my work has evolved over the years – but an artist is never done learning.