Martin Creed is a man who divides opinion. From being lambasted as the worst ever Turner Prize winner by Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak, to becoming the poster boy of art world leader Ivan Wirth, he certainly knows how to cause a bit of controversy. He gained notoriety for his 2001 work entitled “The lights going on and off”, which was literally a white room in which the lights flicked on and off, repeatedly. A new exhibition for the summer of 2016 at Hauser and Wirth’s new Somerset farm space, shows Creed’s output has no signs of slowing down, or becoming less hotly debated.
The show consists of the amalgamated works produced while in residence for two months in the spring of 2016, and cover a vast array of creative mediums, from drip paintings to motor-car installations to his band performing live in the gallery. Creed has been inviting the public to come and join in the art-making, encouraging people to let their hair down and have a go at painting with him during his stay in The Maltings – the gallery provided artist residence space that gives them time and room to explore, think and develop.
The works are typically Creed-like in its eccentricity. Piles of jumbled refuse from his apartment fill the floors, and his well-known cryptic neon signs adorn the walls. However these works feel like a more mature, perhaps less anxious Creed has emerged from the artist who gained momentum for scrunching paper in to balls and making films of people vomiting. Here, motion, form and process still are at the forefront of Creed’s motives, but the works feel a lot more spontaneous and carefree, as if Creed himself feels unbound, and even slightly less bothered.
A tree covered in plastic bags is perhaps a rather obvious statement about finding art in the mundane Tesco bag clinging to branches in the streets, and the “action paintings” are a clear testimony to Jackson Pollock’s inventiveness, but offer little in ways of something “new”. Yet Creed’s work is still as exciting as it ever was. He pays little attention to what can or cant be art – he ignores the rules and is a true free-thinker. His art, while certainly not to everyone’s taste, is at least completely honest.
Martin Creed. What You Find, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 22 May – 11 September 2016.
Words by Harry Seymour