Max Presneill

The works of Max Presneill are about the contradictions of time, space and culture, or rather, they aim to problematize how these notions can be 'pictured'. Or, to be a bit more concise, his practice as a painter is a kind of discourse on the post-historical condition. Not only is his oeuvre composed from images that are culled from different symbolic traditions, but his process involves recomposing and decomposing various genres, idioms and techniques, add infinitum. Ravens and the Sphinx, Capitan Kirk and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Billy the Kid and Prometheus, all dance across Presneill's canvases, not so much as the main attraction, but as strange attractors — mediated and remediated until they are subtracted from their original referent. As such, they are a type of meditation on loss, missed encounters and the irreducible quality of doubles, déjà vu and twin-effects.

One would be wrong however to assign his pictures to the status of being Sysiphusian myths, allegories of labors lost, or as being metaphors about the existential condition of 'man'. Surely, these might have some place in thinking about Presneill's works, but what is much more incisive about his practice as a painter is the sense of uneasiness that one encounters both in his aesthetic choices and the enigmatic quality of the characters he chooses to engage with. In sampling from the history of painting, the internet, magazines, personal effects and hallucinatory affects, Presneill's works chart a space between popular motifs and high art by way of personal inflection, diagrammatic selection and perpetual resurrection — the eternal return of the same as different — and occasionally, as a kind of radical in-difference.

In fact, his use of mythical characters and readymade motifs is not so much a way of identifying with archetypes as it is a means of highlighting figures in transition — or the space between artistic translation and the opacity of signifiers. In this regard, Presneill's allegories are nothing less that orchestrated catastrophes. At once prescient and contemporary, they are idiograms of a type of retro-futurism; a detourned history; or even a detoured narrativity that constantly subtracts itself from the coordinates of easy accessibility. Even his autobiographical works are a collection of so many memento mori — images that are as much about the passing of time as they are a kind of time that refuses to pass, of time at a stand-still, or time as the pile up of history. One might even say that everything which once seemed to make for comfort, and which presents itself as a well-curated and knowing construction in Presneill's paintings is not necessarily that. Rather, they are pictures which pull away from you the closer you get to identifying their historical markers; they pull away a step further when you think you can trace their lineage and context; and they take on their full reserve and enigmatic splendor when their most oblique aspects occult themselves from easy adequation or identification. In this way, they produce not only the trace of living in a post-historical world, but they also enact it by heading for a destinations unknown — a future imperfect.

Bio: Max Presneill is a Los Angeles based artist and curator, originally from London, UK. As an artist he has shown throughout the world including New York, London, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Sydney and Tokyo and is represented by Durden & Ray, Los Angeles, as well as the Garboushian Gallery, Beverly Hills. Besides the show at Autonomie his work can be seen in solo shows at the New Bedford Art Museum in Massachusetts, from May 15th, and at the Garboushian Gallery opening on June 29th, as well as at the Hong Kong art fair in May with Gallery Lara of Tokyo.


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