Observations: Maxim turns to smack his butterflies up

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The Independent Culture

The Prodigy's Maxim started painting in 2002 because he needed some art for the walls of his newly renovated home in Essex. After searching for paintings at a few art fairs, he realised he didn't want to bother buying art. "I looked at it and I thought, 'I could do that myself'". "So I bought some canvases and paint." The result was a batch of abstract landscapes, all in the same colour scheme of purple, red and black, six of which still hang on the walls of his home today.

He continued to paint as a way to relax between touring periods as singer/songwriter and MC for the English electronic dance band The Prodigy. But now he is holding his first ever art show in London's Covent Garden, having become more prolific in the last three years. He switches between his music and artist studios, which are built next to each other in the driveway of his home. "When you are in a band, it is a compromise. On your own you can create however you like. You don't have to please anyone."

Most of his new large-scale paintings are of menacing butterflies, with little skull heads, wielding bloodied swords and machetes – sometimes chopping insects in half. Titles of paintings include Test Freedom, The Need To Serve, Beautiful Revolution, Exit and Live, and Heavy Heaven.

"The idea came to me when I was in my studio and I caught a moth in the clasp of my hands," he explains. "I was wondering what the moth was thinking. Then I had this idea of a butterfly being liberated – fighting for freedom, rather than being caught."

Maxim whose real name is Keith Andrew Palmer paints, sprays and uses collages in his paintings – even dirt and box-hedge leaves. A painting of a clown's face on the wall of his studio is made out of pills.

His latest show also includes Protection 3, of an isolated figure. "I was trying to get across the vulnerability of a person who is alone. The resin around her is like a figure with a cloak giving her protection." While Trashed Souls, with Gothic-looking churches and men falling, looks like a scene out of Dracula. "It reminds me of when you go out and get drunk. You feel like you trashed your soul a little bit," he says. "I'm not religious but I was trying to depict someone falling from grace."

He has about 15 dark, fantasy paintings he is keeping secret. "I don't want to show all my cards at once in the first show."

MM Art: Lepidop Terror , INC Space, London WC2(020 7557 6655; www. mm-gallery.com) to 26 September