London based artist, Max Denison-Pender visited Iceland this year for a month to paint the Icelandic landscape and make a Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) with a view to joining Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa on a SpaceX rocket with seven other artists for a week in outer space. This involved Max destroying the original painting, however, rather than simply shredding it, Max turned the destruction of the canvas into performance art in itself.

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About Max Denison Pender

Since his first sell-out solo exhibition, The Heart of London, in Kensington, in the summer of 2019, Max’s work has gone from strength to strength, attracting new patrons and noteworthy commissions.

In the run-up to his solo show, he was the first artist in 30 years to gain access to paint the iconic exterior of 10 Downing Street. Following his exhibition, Max was invited to join Team GB as their Artist in Residence for the 2020 Olympics. He painted several known sportspeople, including the world champion boxer Anthony Joshua, in his gym during his training camp.

Max has also painted a series of everyday heroes, including the two critical care nurses who the prime minister, Boris Johnson, singled out for saving his life. The portraits, painted from life, are currently displayed in Number 10 Downing Street, next to the Prime Minister’s office.

Max is on track to become the hottest artist of the 21st century and if he goes to space in 2023, we will be seeing a lot more of Max for many years to come.

Video: how artist Max Denison-Pender created an NFT out of his painting of the volcano in Geldingadalir

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If you join Yusaku Maezawa to fly around the moon, will you paint in space? If so, what will you paint?

I would be the first artist in space. I would paint the interior of the rocket looking out at the Moon and Earth. One of subjects would be the side of the Earth at night, thinking of all those people tucked in bed asleep with their thoughts, dreams and worries, whilst I watch over them from the silence of outer space.

It must have been pretty crazy to paint that self-portrait in one night, right next to the eruption. What was that like?

Like a lot of things, it took a substantial amount of preparation and effort to even get there. I can easily relate the double bass player in an orchestra, in that I’ve chosen a profession which requires a lot of heavy carrying. My easels, paints and palette are very cumbersome and heavy. As a landscape artist you must keep fit and not smoke too much.

Painting erupting volcanos is not for the fainthearted. It was stressful heaving all my equipment up the mountain and into place whilst trying not to be simultaneously gassed and cooked. The wind was ringing in my ears, whilst it sporadically lashed with rain.
However, once in place and painting; it was an extraordinary experience. I have never mixed so many fiery colours on my palette.

You have been painting Icelandic landscapes; what has that been like?

In comparison to the undulating English countryside and well laid out, leafy London parks it was wild, untamed and very varied in terms of terrain; like being in middle Earth. Iceland is an must go destination for artists; offering icebergs to the mountain rivers and volcanos. I was spoilt for choice.

What places in Iceland have impressed you?

The erupting volcanos and icebergs. On one hand there is the menacing violence of the volcano, then in vivid contrast, you have the comparative soothing calmness of the icecaps floating sedately in the water which were almost cathartic to paint.

After you painted your self-portrait, you destroyed and created an Non-Fungible Tokens out of it. Can you explain the opportunity involved in NFTs for artists like yourself?

Not so much an opportunity but a thing to tick off my to-do list. Everyone asked me when I would be making one. As destroying my artwork does not come easily to me – this will be my only one.
My reasons for doing an NFT were not normal. The choice of subject, a volcano, was foolhardy in the extreme. My motivation for doing it in the first place, to increase my chances of a trip to the moon, was ambitious but I have always chased my dreams. It helps to be optimistic if you are going to be a painter. Setbacks are many so you need to remind yourself “tomorrow will be better”.

For Max Pendin

For me, my mission was simple: go to Iceland and climb the volcano with easel, canvas and paints. Paint the volcano – don’t get gassed… Get in a helicopter and fly as close to the volcano as you can. Find a drone man crazy enough to fly your painting into the volcano – don’t forget to take a picture of the painting – it’s going to be an NFT, remember? Make sure you ask Yusaku Maesawa to take you to the moon. Fly painting into the volcano and get on Icelandic news. Painting is now tokenized. You have your NFT.

Will you create NFTs out of your paintings of Icelandic landscapes?

No, destroying one painting was hard enough. I would prefer the other paintings were on peoples’ walls.

What advice would you give to an artist who is visiting Iceland for the first time to paint?

Bring lots of socks and do not eat Hakarl.