JAM meets Artist Maxwell Rushton

How were you inspired to make the works in the Twisted series?

M: I have always been interested in the relationship between authentic expression and influenced expression. Before the character based work in the Twisted series my paintings were predominantly abstract automatism. I started introducing characters after I felt like I had developed my own style through the abstract work.

Would you say that because of this you’re paintings are without influence?

No, this is the thing; I believe very little expression is without external persuasion; I am very conscious of this as I love the work of Outsider Artists [art of the mentally ill/child art/the untaught] the level of authenticity within the expressions of these artists is unparalleled. All that my paintings offer is an attempt at an original rework. [The term ‘original rework’ that Maxwell uses to describe his work was chosen as a title for his degree show].

Tell us about how you sign you’re painting off.

What the symbol? Well I didn’t know that I had been making that pattern of marks since I had been painting until I noticed that they were included somewhere in all my works. When I saw that I had been making those marks impulsively I guess to me they represented authentic expression. They are without influence as it was my subconscious that was doing them.  But of course now I make those marks consciously as a signature so as to say that we all battle with our authenticity. It also shows that it’s so easy to capitalise on anything authentic.

We know you as a painter, but we understand that the more conceptual work that you did at college is what you wish peruse.

Yer, like although my paintings have been received really well [Maxwell has exhibited numerous times throughout Leeds] they have outlived their purpose as I feel that they were crucial in getting me to the ideas that I have now, like about the struggle to detect and defend your own authenticity, I couldn’t just use paint for these new pieces.

What do you use instead?

Er, well in one of the recent pieces I framed my old painting T-shirt so that it looks like merchandise, and at the bottom of it I painted that signature into a logo with my blood. Basically I’m trying to use commercial marketing techniques as artistic mediums to question my ability as an artist to express authentically in this modern digital age. My paintings and the new work might look a lot different but the relationship between authentic and synthetic expression has always been under question [synthetic being the opposite of authentic in this regard]. In a weird way I reckon they look kinda similar.

We’ve gathered you’re currently exhibiting in Leeds in Live Art Bistro (LAB) on Cross York. Do you enjoy exhibiting your art? Or is it actually quite painful and embarrassing?

M: It’s definitely both of them. I’m really proud of having my work in places around Leeds and it means that my room is less clogged up… It’s a relief!

Are you invigorated by the fact that it’s out there and you know that people are looking at it, or is it the feedback that is invigorating?

M: It’s enough to have it out there, that’s feedback in itself. I mean, I exhibit, but I’m not an exhibitionist. If a buyer or curator wants a piece, that’s an honor, but if my work built up around me in my room I’d still be happy, still keep making it.

Considering the connotations in your work towards naïve art and Art Brut, art that is deaf to the art world, what sort of criticism have you taken on board since your practice has been made public?

M: Hmm, that’s tough. I just like making art. The not wanting to listen is because I don’t really agree with the way that a lot of art is made. I get tons more criticism on my recent work because I think it hits close to the bone.

Details of further exhibitions and examples of the artist’s work are available to view at


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