MAX PRUS: Their Garden City
PAINTINGS AND WORKS ON PAPER
14 – 28 February 2024
Monday – Saturday, 11–5
Private view: Thursday, 15 February, 6–8
At England & Co’s Project Space, Sotheran’s Building, 2A Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London W1S 3D.
A mock Tudor house in a lane at night is lit by an elusive light. A group of ramblers, as if on guard, inhabit the space. The name of the lane is missing but signposts are there. There is a lot of vivid green, a palpable tension in the atmosphere and it is impossible to pinpoint the viewer’s role in this situation.
This painting, Their Garden City, is the culmination of a series of works resulting from Max Prus’s research trips to Welwyn Garden City. This experimental town, twenty miles north of London, was founded in 1920, shortly after the First World War and long after the industrial revolution. It was the second ‘garden city’ in England: ‘perfect’ towns designed to combine the best of both city and countryside, reflecting the utopian ideals of the era.
Prus says he finds that ‘heritage reinvented is sometimes a starting point into a painting’. In his paintings that re-examine the results of earlier altruistic planning intentions in contemporary Britain – and in his works made in other locations – he places himself in the role of the artist ‘as an honest interloper trying to be an acceptable and useful citizen’.
Many of his works ‘reflect upon the human species and our characteristics’ as he finds that ‘close inspection of how things evolved can reveal deeper secrets’. He regards his paintings as the ‘incidental leftovers from a life lived’: investigations into the complex mechanisms of contemporary human existence. He sees his painting process as the ‘continuous refinement of a chemistry experiment’ that has found its way onto canvas or paper’, and in another painting, Lady Beaconsfield, painted reality dissolves into a universe of alien cricketers, gas clouds, helicopters and strange blobs emerging from the sea.
This exhibition encompasses works spanning the past decade – from a handmade book with pages turned automatically by machine; a selection of small works and large-scale watercolours made over the past three years; through to some very recent large paintings.
Max Prus (born 1987) currently lives and works in London. He graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in London in 2015 with a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art, having previously completed a BA in Fine Art Painting and Printmaking from Glasgow School of Art in 2011. He has exhibited in the UK, Mexico and the USA.