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Martin Creed in Auckland

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Martin Creed, Work No. 1701, 2015, still, digital video, 4 min 16 sec. Martin Creed: Work No. 2256, 2015, carpet tiles, dimensions variable Martin Creed, Work No. 2568, 2015, spray paint, dimensions variable Martin Creed, Work No. 2575, dual channel digital video, 2 min 7 sec. Martin Creed, Work No. 2574, 2015, bricks, 59 x 21 x 22.5 cm /23 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 8 1/2 in Martin Creed, Work No. 2559, 2015, steel I-beams, 184 x 184 x 23 cm /72 1/2 x 72 1/2 x 9 in Martin Creed, Work No. 2556, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 40.6 x 30.5 cm /16 x 12 in Martin Creed, Work No. 2551, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 30.5 x 40.5 cm /12 x 16 in Martin Creed, Work No. 2552, portrait of Sir Edmund Hillary, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 30.5 x 25.4 cm /12 x 10 in Martin Creed, Work No. 2563, 2015, plastic bags, 53 x 47 cm /21 x 18 1/2 in Martin Creed, as installed at Michael Lett, Auckland.

There is a wide range of material: one ‘dancing' performance on opening night; two drawings direct on walls with oil pastel or marker pen; two ‘paintings' with plastic bags pushed into glass cases; a dozen paint-on-canvas works; one wall/ceiling/floor installation with carpet strips; another installation of a word painted on the wall that goes round a corner; two videos; a charcoal-on-canvas drawing; two sculptures of stacked bricks; three sculptures of welded, decreasingly sized (as they ascend) I-beams.

Auckland

 

Solo artist
Martin Creed

 

3 October - 7 November 2015

Here we have Martin Creed‘s third solo show with Michael Lett, the Scottish art star’s first use of the third Lett space, after showing in each of the other two versions (2006, 2012) earlier. As part of a national speaking/performing tour this time round, this presentation lacks the cohesion and quality of the other ones. Nevertheless, it is worth exploring.

Physically and mentally. He has the whole of the gallery: the dark claustrophobic basement with its winding narrow corridors, and the light, airy and spacious main floor.

There is a wide range of material: one ‘dancing’ performance on opening night; two drawings direct on walls with marker pen or oil pastel; two ‘paintings’ with plastic bags pushed into glass cases; a dozen paint-on-canvas works; one wall/ceiling/floor installation with carpet strips; another installation of a word painted on the wall that goes round a corner; two videos; a charcoal-on-canvas drawing; two sculptures of stacked bricks; three sculptures of welded, decreasingly sized (as they ascend) I-beams.

It is very hit and miss. Unlike the last show, a lot of misses, especially with the painting which last time was curiously interesting. This time there doesn’t seem any focused method, though his interest in dry brush wipes here might lead eventually to more controlled and structured statements. The plastic bag works look intriguing as clusters of rumpled plastic, though Rob Hood has done better work with this ‘ectoplasmic’ material in Christchurch.

Creed is at his best with the two wall drawings, two installations and two videos.

The two wall drawings seem from a distance to be delicate strands of coloured wire leaning against the white wall. One (Work No. 2562) is a loop that crosses over at the bottom and the other (Work No. 2561) is a vertical bundle of cascading lines. These tremulous nervous clusters chromatically float in front of the walls they are drawn on. They seem to vibrate as they hover.

The installations are very different. One (Work No. 2556) uses bands of plain coloured carpet to line the walls, ceilings and floor of the walk-in safe in Lett’s basement to create an immersive, telescopic (early) Frank Stella painting. The other (Work No. 2568) wittily exploits a corner so that the sprayed word ‘understand’ can be read on the long approaching brick wall, with ‘in’ on the end plane facing you. That turns to an ‘ing’ when you eventually reach the junction and turn to the right - to grasp the whole word.

With the videos, one is presented in the carpet tile room. This work (Work No. 1701) shows eight people in a sequence crossing a narrow street, one at a time. Each moves in a unique (if not very unusual) fashion. Some might in fact be physically handicapped with neural or muscular disorders. Others might have a subtly strange gait. One hops on one leg only, while another drags his body backwards, not using his legs but seated, pulling with his arms. Rhythmic motion is accentuated and examined.

The other video (Work No. 2575) is a two channel item of the artist’s eyes, filmed separately in b/w and slowly winking. The monitors are butted together and the eyes not spaced apart as they would be in nature. They look odd and mischievous, being so close - casually opening and closing independently.

So overall, it’s a mixed bag. Many of the paintings are overworked (Creed is most successful with very simple ideas and rudimentary physical gestures) and the minimalist sculptures dull; however the wall drawings, videos and installations  - they are quite special.

John Hurrell

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