Podcast Editor Matthew Seaman reviews Maxim and Dan Pearce’s “Hope Project”.

On Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of attending the VIP Private View of Maxim and Dan Pearce’s “Hope Project” at 99 Projects, a new art gallery in Kensal Rise. This lockdown creation was the culmination of pandemic-inspired artwork by mixed-media artist, Dan Pearce, and the electronic band The Prodigy frontman, Maxim.

The exhibition features sculptures, paintings and a short film, but the collection also includes an exclusive four-track EP by Maxim himself. Preliminarily, the songs are available to those who purchase the artwork, but they will drop on streaming platforms when the exhibition closes. I spoke to the gallerist, Frances Casey, about the work they have been doing. The “Hope Project” is the first of their endeavours, but a wide variety is lined up for the year. The gallery itself is modern and intimate, acting as an adaptable space for a range of events. To me, it seems like the perfect place for private hire evenings, with a handy catering area and terrace. I felt extremely welcomed, although mixing with journalists from some of the top publications was certainly daunting.

The short film itself is powerful. Focused around the pressures of the pandemic, and framed through the eyes of a child, it allows for a moment of reflection. The boy, played by Pearce’s son, is afraid and lost. We see him navigate the maze of 2020-life, without school, and lacking a support system. It is accompanied by Maxim’s gritty music, and set in a snowy England. I particularly liked the distorted moment, in which a stranger scolds the boy for being alone outdoors, the cinematography somewhat disorientating for the audience. I also found the kindness of Maxim’s homeless character to be heartwarming. And then there is the grenade which acts as a motif throughout the exhibition.

Maxim (left) and Dan Pearce (right) at work

The sculptures are equally eye opening: a hooded boy beside a “Heart Attack Resin Grenade”. Each sculpture a variation of the same concept, only in different, vibrant colours (yellow stood out for me). The simplicity is comforting, but intrigue lies in the juxtaposition between love and destruction. I was reminded of some of Banksy’s work, specifically his 2015 parody theme park, “Dismaland”. Pearce told me that it was his first experience with sculpture work, and that his friendship with Maxim introduced him to the medium. I also learned that it was his son’s first on-screen work, something I didn’t expect to hear after his heartfelt, truthful performance.

Myself (left) with Maxim (right)

At the end of the night, along with a couple of other journalists, I was introduced to Maxim. I was baffled by the nature of questions asked, focusing more on his past and personal matters than the artwork itself. It was clear that they were in search of a headline. After holding back, I managed to have a chat with Maxim about his artistic vision, something he seemed grateful for, showing me some images on his phone. I particularly liked his “Rebel With The Paws” sculptures of armed cats (cats with guns, not arms). He exuded passion for this hobby, expressing a desire to be recognised for something besides his first love: music. I was glad that he lacked a deep explanation for the cats with guns, and justified it simply as a “contradiction”, something that you wouldn’t expect to see. I feel as though this concept was taken to the next level with the heart-enclosed grenade, symbolising love and hope. Maxim modestly hinted at a return for The Prodigy next year.

It was a bittersweet evening; although it was my first time out since the latest easing of restrictions, it was also a reflection on the hardships of the past year. The exhibition illuminates the struggles that those with mental-health problems have experienced. Yet, buried amongst the darkness is hope and optimism. Maxim and Dan demonstrate a retrospective understanding of the past, along with a message of yearning for a world characterised by kindness. I feel this culmination of various art mediums bonds well, and the evening was a success.

The “Hope Project” is open at 99 Projects, Kensal Rise, for the next three weeks, and the short film can be watched online now.

Podcast Editor and Culture Writer for Roar News.

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