V1 Gallery is pleased to present

A Vagrant’s Paradise

A solo exhibition by Maximillian Brown


The failure of European art to achieve the sublime is due to this blind desire to exist inside the reality of sensation (the object world, whether distorted or pure) and to build an art within the framework of pure plasticity (the Greek ideal of beauty, whether that plasticity be a romantic active surface, or a classic stable one). In other words, modern art, caught without a sublime content, was incapable of creating a new sublime image, and unable to move away from the Renaissance imagery of figures and objects except by distortion or by denying it completely for an empty world of geometric formalisms.”

- Barnett Newman, “The Sublime Is Now“, 1948

The peaks and crevasses of perspective, so high and so low, sometimes seeming so far out of reach, sometimes approaching at such haste that one cannot comprehend the fall or rise. With each drop of sweat, each callus, each scar, each damaged limb taken throughout which has yet to heal, the depths and heights seem no smaller. As we attempt to navigate this landscape, we may find ourselves growing more comfortable with our techniques, steps and navigation, taking the ever lasting journey through the rugged terrain as if to find the final height, yet this height is not ours to choose.

Unable to breath, encompassed by the weight of the pacific, gasping and reaching. Yet weightless, floating in silence without premeditated direction. To drown may be the closest we truly come to drifting away into the void of space. After we have climbed the highest peak, where the summit meets the unknown, we begin to drift. Taken by the breeze, weightless, all pressures subside, the bruised and callused vessel releases all tensions, with acceptance and emersion, the closing sublime experience.

Awaking to all that there is, is this really all there is? Too much to ever truly explore, a lifetime of curiosity, joy of the new, excitement and uncertainty. The vastness offers the opportunity of all possibility, or an emptiness of outstretched chaos, existing without reason.

Whilst they danced in the prion of self affliction, as if time stopped, a moment of peace and stillness like the quiet that comes after the final peak, the final peak , the last dive. I lay to the sounds of music , dancing, understanding as if to have a glimpse into the inner workings of their wordless communication. A moment of understanding, one to cherish for these moments shall not last. Shrouded in a cloak of optimism.

Advancing to an end , without clear sight yet knowing. Unsure whether this Is the end of a long decent or approach to the summit. Yet aware that upon arrival a change shall come. Repercussions of actions taken, for good or for bad. Ethics become irrelevant. What can you find amongst this haze as we approach the crux? Will the light shine through, or will your eyes dart across the vacant darkness that appears ever lasting. There is possibility, an infinite resource.

- Maximillian Brown, 2022

I have known Maximillian for a couple of years. On many an occasion, we find ourselves suddenly launching into these small impromptu critique sessions about art. Maximillian is a painter, and I am not. Maximillian speaks of painting with the conviction and clarity of someone who has, by natural born talent, or by practice, the ability to channel their lifeforce onto the canvas. But when it comes to his own work, Maximillian is an iconoclast: “There is image making, and then there is painting-painting”, he explains and assures me, that he belongs in the latter category. What makes an image an image? Are abstract paintings, then, images or paintings?

While I wonder, Maximillian smiles unconcerned and points to his canvases. It is inconsequential. He simply invites us to lose ourselves in their seductive surfaces. As if Monet’s famous haystacks had been dissected, dissolved and laid out on to a two-dimensional surface, these surfaces act as fulcrums for the endless play of light and shadow. Careful build-ups of bright violet and blue brushstrokes emerge organically from the dark and glossy base layers. They shift dramatically depending on the time of day, and on the viewer’s position, vibrating between the symbolic and the literal. I initially look for figuration in them like Rorschach test, but I quickly give up. It is inconsequential. Devoid of any representational form for intellect to grasp, they are seductive because they refuse to operate within any semiotic paradigm. Without the confines of form and the yoke of content, these canvases seem to manifest the boundless.

Barnett Newman held in the 1940s, in his now enshrined essay “The Sublime Is Now”, that European painting had come to a standstill. Modern painters, despite their attempt to jettison classic ideals of beauty as harmony of form, had only reproduced old aesthetics. Newman rejected European modernisms in favor of American expressive abstraction, which he believed to be more suited towards channeling the sublime. Yet in his writings, he named his work “images”, suggesting that his work still operated within representation. Generations later, my friend Maximillian, however, rejects them all together. “No image-making”, he reminds me time and again.

Painting without images means redirect focus from the end product, it muddies the lines between the process and the result, and most importantly, it locates the work in the same space and reality as me and my body. Perhaps, in order for painting to achieve the sublime, that event which Newman so exalted in his writings, it must escape both the virtual and the linguistic, it must exist with and within itself, establishing and operating with its own logic. Of course, a painter knows this. My friend listens and nods patiently, while I stand in front of his work, grasping for the right words. I think he understands what I am trying to say, I hope he agrees with me: These paintings have done away blind desire to exist inside the reality of sensation and the object world. They belong to nothing and no one; vagrants, nomads and runaways indeed, drifting in between the gaps of art history.

Text by:

Astrid Wang in conversation with Maximilian Brown