John Hurrell – 15 April, 2012
Creed's works are pretty funny in their modest, self effacing nature and so it seems natural that he doesn't even call them ‘art', though everybody else does. His method of using numbers for titles is to avoid giving them names where he has to make decisions about identifying their properties.
6 April - 12 May 2012
In this, the second solo show at Michael Lett by the acclaimed British artist Martin Creed, we find a mixture of film, neon, photography and painted marks on canvases and walls, each work expressing the casual lightness of touch and whimsical humour this artist is famous for. Some seem to be a tip of the hat to other artists (the dogs of Work No. 1096 to the photographer William Wegman, the multi-hued brush marks of No. 1161 to the paintings of Bernard Frize), others are typically ‘Creed’ in their understatement: a series of eight descending diminishing St. Andrew’s crosses crudely painted directly on a wall, a b/w film of an aroused woman’s nipple swelling around its areola.
Creed’s works are pretty funny in their modest, self effacing nature and so it seems natural that he doesn’t even call them ‘art’, though everybody else does. His method of using numbers for titles is to avoid giving them names where he has to make decisions about identifying their properties.
Some items seem to be about constancy. Creed‘s neon word-sculpture, Work No. 669, has the word “Friends,” appear for 7 seconds, then to go off for the same period, only to reappear. It seems to be a comment on the fickleness of seemingly steadfast loyalty, but it could also be about devotion, affection’s silence when demonstrative action doesn’t have to be conspicuous.
The stars of this show I think are the two roughly executed, descending St. Andrew’s cross paintings (Work Nos. 1150 & 1110) in the back room, with their abrupt shifts of scale on canvas and wall - and lurching top-heavy instability. They seem to be a joke about his being called ‘a Scottish artist’ (he hates it) and really interact with space in a stridently tangible way, having lots of airy planar room above the largest cross with the thickest strokes, and the overlapping diagonal motifs aggressively accelerating at speed towards the head of the viewer. There is a sense that they celebrate absurdity with the tiniest skinniest cross being barely noticeable at the bottom.
Of the three other paintings in the front space, the Frize-like canvas (Work No.1161) is the most fascinating. Its straight orange-brown marks brushed into wet under-lines cause a stacking effect with the dark and colder, most recent strokes being physically closest to the viewer and near the bottom of the picture-plane. Paradoxically these intersecting blue-green lines recede and compress the underlying orange, making the painting appear to have straps that are about to snap. An intriguing dynamic.