The Prodigy's Maxim Reality stages debut art show

The MC has turned his creative flare to painting and opens his debut art exhibition under the alias MM this week. Matilda Battersby hears about his penchant for chopping things up

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The Independent Culture

This is the first exhibition I’ve ever had. I’m a bit nervous, I don’t really know what to expect. When you’re in a band you’re surrounded by mates. But for this, the focus is on me. It makes me feel a bit naked. I’m exposing myself to people by hanging my thoughts upon the walls. It’s the criticism that’s scary.

Nobody likes bad criticism, do they? But it can be useful. People commonly describe my work as “dark”. Which is fair, because I paint mainly in greys and blacks. I can’t really paint in reds, yellows, light blues, greens. Dark, sinister, moody are the words that people use to describe my paintings.

I’ve been painting for about 11 years. I was using acrylics mostly, trying to catch textures and different colours in the sky. Landscapes, that sort of thing. No figures or shapes that you could recognise exactly. But I went to New York and I met quite a few artists who opened my eyes to different techniques and made me realise that art isn’t just about acrylics and oils.

I don’t see myself as someone who can paint and draw. I’m not that kind of artist. I’ll admit it, I can’t draw to save my life. I used to be able to, when I was younger but I can’t now. I probably would be able to if I practised and practised, but that’s not really my thing. I like to use images and manipulate them and tweak them. To put the head of a horse onto the body of sheep or something. Something mad.

The butterfly pictures came about because I saw a moth in my music studio. I caught it and threw it out of the window (I don’t like killing things) and it suddenly dawned on me I had no idea what the insect was thinking. When you touch a butterfly in your hand, is that butterfly thinking “Get the f*** off me” or “If I had a knife I’d cut your finger off”. Some people don’t find them beautiful. They look at their insect bodies and they find them grotesque. In the paintings I give them samurai swords and that kind of thing so they can express themselves.

There was this girl who modelled for me and I basically chopped her body up. Not in the real sense obviously. You’re not going to find a dead woman under my patio. But imagery-wise I like to manipulate them to make them into something else. I’ve actually said to models in the past: “Don’t worry about what you look like now because you might not even have a head when I’ve finished with you. You might just end up as a pair of breasts.” I just like to take images somewhere else. I think most ideas are basically plagiarism. You have to take something which exists and turn it into something new.

The reason I started painting was because I needed some art for my bare walls at home. I went to some affordable art fairs and there were some nice paintings for a lot of money. But I looked at them and thought: “I can do that”. Obviously, that was the first step. Having the belief that I could do it.

The Prodigy are recording another album at the moment so it’s perfect timing for me. I’ve taken a couple of weeks off to do the art. In some respects it works hand in hand because you don’t do music constantly. You do it for two or three days and then you have a break. So it gives me time to do art and then go back into the studio. It’s a good balance. Another outlet for my creativity.

MM Art: Lepidop Terror is at I.N.C Space, Covent Garden 15-26 September,