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feature martin creed
An Evolving Creed
From runners sprinting through Tate Britain to a piece of choreographed ballet at Sadler’s Wells, Martin Creed has become renowned for his installation and performance work since winning the
Turner Prize in 2001. So why is he returning to paint?
Writer alex coles
Martin Creed’s work is underpinned by a series of questions, and underlines the decision-making process that takes place in the creation of art. Where does the work begin? Where does it end? What should it include? What should it leave out? What size should it be and how long should it go on for? This process of querying is endless, and Creed established a visual vocabulary early on in his career with which to explore these questions. The mainstay of this vocabulary was taken from the white cube in which the work was exhibited – including its doors, which opened and closed; its sounds, which became louder or quieter; its walls, which grew strange protrusions; its lights, which went on and off; and even its air, which was captured by balloons.
Alongside these conceptual pieces Creed developed his songs, which were performed with his band, Owada. The lyrics to one of these early songs, Circle (actually penned by his friend Patrick Brill, also known as Bob and Roberta Smith [b. 1963]), and included on Owada’s first and only album, Nothing (1997), provides a glimpse of the role humour played in Creed’s music:
Stephen Willats thought that Art & Language were ripping him off Art & Language thought that Joseph Kosuth was ripping them off Joseph Kosuth thought that Lawrence Weiner was ripping him off On a recent trip to London Lawrence Weiner saw a show by Stephen Willats he said, ‘F*** me this guy’s ripping me off.’
This was in stark contrast to his work of the time, which was much more deadpan. Eventually, Creed found it necessary to bring the music and the art closer together. As the artist explains: ‘After a while the band thing felt wrong. I just wanted to do my work – be it music or sculpture. In both cases – with the guitar or the gallery.’ He goes on: ‘It is a matter of trying to just let things be. Doing gigs under my own name now I think makes it easier because there is no confusion about what I’m doing. But I still get asked whether the music is different to the sculptural work. In response I always say no – no, it isn’t!’
But in conversation Creed asserts that the level of play and humour in the songs was very much present in his early work too. The humour is always there – even if these
126 apollo march 2011