Artist Interview: Max Naylor
05 April 2012
Our second artist interview is with Max Naylor. Max creates windows into half-remembered worlds that suspend somewhere between dreams and reality. As well as the landscapes and cityscapes Max has exhibited with Antlers, he has also made larger, sprawling, stream-of-consciousness scroll pieces that chronicle his experiences abroad. To gain further insight into his practice, we asked Max a few questions…
Would you like to talk a bit about your scroll making? How did it come about?
Originally I was interested in making a visual travelogue to document a trip across the U.S. I enjoyed this way of working, and for a few years it became the main focus of my practice. I built a portable device that held the scrolls of paper and spooled them over a solid surface that I could draw on.
The idea to make the scrolls came about from my dissatisfaction with the process of keeping a sketchbook. I found that my best work was often made in my sketchbooks, perhaps because it was uninhibited and there was no pressure to create a ‘finished’ art work. I wanted to preserve the spirit of the sketchbook but at the same time create something more ambitious. I was also interested in the narrative possibilities of a continuous drawing, exploring how the individual sections linked and flowed together both graphically and thematically.
A lot of your work focuses on the imagined or half remembered landscape, how does this then relate to the journal-like chronicling in your scrolls?
I didn’t impose any rules or objectives when making these works. I talked earlier about capturing the ‘spirit of the sketchbook,’ so I worked quite naturally, drawing only what I was compelled to at any particular moment. That could be either directly from observation, from memory or simply mark making and doodling. I am very interested in the idea that drawing is thinking and that by looking at someone’s drawing, you find out who they are and what concerns them. The scroll drawings are important to me personally because the memories of the trip are deeply embedded into the marks I made in a way that photography or a written diary could not achieve.
On to your wall hangings, one of your works is entitled ‘Traümlandschaft’, which I understand is loosely translated German for dream-scape. What is the significance of this idea or place to you and your work?
Well, I lived in Berlin for a while and besides making more scrolls and becoming proficient at table tennis, I made a pretty poor attempt at learning German. The verb Traümen means ‘to dream’ and I thought it was a wonderful sounding word. So, it was a nod to my time in Berlin – and dream-scape sounds a bit naff in English!
A sense of place is what tends to remain for me after dreaming. When the shifting emotions and narratives fade from memory, I’m often left with a strong sense of landscape, warped and reconfigured from actual memory. I find myself returning to these familiar coastlines, coves, bays and headlands; a kind of island microcosm where urban and rural spaces coexist and intermingle. San Francisco replaces Brighton and sits incongruous yet seamlessly nestled into the Sussex coastline, or the central line through a metropolis alights in a breezy Cornish cove. Sorry, other people’s dreams are boring, but these are the memories and imaginings that my mind is concerned with, so it seems totally natural to try and re-externalise this imagery through my work.
Are the images distinctly separate or are they all part of a wider narrative?
I think the themes my work tries to deal with are separate yet linked. My interest in landscape focuses on the hinterlands between rural and urban spaces – allotments and industrial estates, for example – and coastlines where land and sea meet. For me this is analogous to metaphysical ideas concerning the space between the external and internal realms in which our consciousnesses seem to exist.
What is the relationship between your medium and your work? How do you feel your process of mark making relates to the subjects of your pictures?
I work in ink because I like the strong impact of the line. I don’t work with pencil first so I have to live with mistakes, although I don’t really see them as mistakes. I mentioned the idea earlier that drawing is thinking. If you view the images in that context, as visual transcriptions of the process of thought, then to hide or erase tentative or preliminary marks would be against the spirit in which the image was made.
I have recently discovered the etching process, which I am very excited about. I’m interested in the possibilities of enriching linear work with tonal qualities and look forward to exploring this process further.
Max is currently studying for a postgraduate course at the Prince’s Drawing School in London. He recently contributed work to the latest Antlers Exhibition ‘Other Nature’.
To see more of Max’s work, check out his Antlers Artist page here http://www.antlersgallery.com/artist/max-naylor
Photography by Gary Morrisroe:- http://www.garymorrisroephotography.co.uk/