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Review: Martin Creed – What’s the Point of It?

Wednesday 29 January 2014
Words Alice Bell

From the moment you walk in, confronted with a giant neon sign reading ‘MOTHERS’ spinning just inches above your head, you know you’re in for a thrilling ride as it sets the tone for the exhibition; imposing and striking, yet strangely comic. Today the first major retrospective of the internationally acclaimed artist Martin Creed opens at the Hayward Gallery. One of my favourite galleries, curating some of the best exhibitions I’ve seen, the architectural setting of the gallery is always used as an integral part of their shows, this one being no exception.

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Martin Creed, Work no. 1092,  What’s the Point of it, Hayward Gallery, 2014
Installation view. Photo: Linda Nylind

We were lucky enough to be given an introduction to the exhibition by Martin Creed himself, who when asked the reasoning behind the title of the exhibition – What’s The Point of It? – said it was a very good question, one that he’s still looking for the answer for and probably not find, preferring the viewer to impose their own meanings on his works.

His uncertainty is charming and somewhat reassuring, “I don’t believe in Conceptual Art” he states, “I’m suspicious of art galleries… anything can look good… I’m uneasy if they are too inward looking rather than looking out.” This is reinforced by his use of the spaces of the gallery, the outside exhibition space becomes part of another piece (Work No. 990 Curtains Opening and Closing) as you are invited to look through the window at people enjoying other work on the terrace. Even the toilets are utilised with a sneaky sculpture that could easily be missed if you’re not paying attention.

Creed’s pieces are all named in a certain way, ‘Work No…’, giving each piece an equal standing, no matter how big or small and brings all the different disciplines of his work together. It also removes his work from the traditional ‘Untitled’ convention. He mentions how he wants to feel free but is at the mercy of his own prejudices and conventions – the urge to be neat and tidy for instance, “That’s why I’m wearing shoes!”.

Martin Creed_1636_Spindle
Martin Creed Work No. 1636, 2013
© the artist, Image courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Genevieve Hanson

Always playful, his work uses a selection of seemingly everyday objects, elevated by their arrangement into works of art. It’s almost more Pop than Conceptual Art, verging on the absurd at times (Work No. 1000 comprising of 1000 broccoli prints springs to mind). More ambient works (Turner Prize winning The Lights Going On and Off and 39 metronomes simultaneously ticking at different speeds) filter in subconsciously making the exhibition truly immersive, not to mention the claustrophobic (in a good way) Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space, where you are forced to swim through room full of white balloons.

All in a all a highly recommended exhibition; his work remains highly relevant in an age of internet commentary and absurdity.

Martin Creed: What’s the Point of It? is open now and runs until 27th April at the Hayward Gallery, London.