Monday 20 June 2016


MARTIN CREED is into basics.  Up, down. Love, hate. Open, closed. Big things in small rooms. Small things in large spaces. He likes things. Basic feelings, emotions. Basic physical activities.  
His materials are basic too: paper, masking tape, old boxes, old chairs, balloons. Basic processes: crumpling (paper) stacking (chairs) (Tables) ... 

Creed won the Turner Prize back in 2001 with his empty room with the lights going on & off. About as minimal as it gets. Or maybe not. Other famous Creed works include blank paper.
Creed grew up in Lenzie, Glasgow, and retains a distinctive Glasgow accent. In fact I am amazed that New Yorkers could understand him! 

His father John Creed is a silversmith & metal worker who taught at Glasgow School of Art for many years. 

Martin went to the Slade, London 1986-90 where he met his partner Anouchka Grose who also plays in his band. 
Music plays a big role in the Creed family. His father also makes complex & impressive ancient musical instruments. 
Since 2001 Creed has exhibited extensively around the world from New Zealand to Sao Paulo, Singapore to Bern.  A neon, "Everything is going to be alright" sits on the facade of the GMA in Edinbrugh. His huge neon sign saying "UNDERSTANDING" is currently installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park, overlooking Manhattan. The word rotates atop a ziggurat. 
His current NYC show (till Aug 7th) at the magnificent Part Avenue Armory is his largest, most comprehensive US show to date. 

I was looking for some new work but it's classic Creed & contains all his best known ploys. Here the lights on/off are combined with his balloon half-filled room (white here, and in the ornate mahogany Colonel's Reception Room). 
The ornate historical rooms - one by Tiffany - provide an unusual backdrop to Creed's white piano with its smashing lid, 
plus his Blu-Tack, bits of paper - crumpled or flattened out, torn or folded,
 lego tower or cast-off small boxes set amid the officers' silver cups, vessels or gold plate trophies. 

 lego tower

Most shocking & audacious is his single video on a 60ft wide screen hanging in the vast, enormous 55,000 sq ft central hall containing a single female head, stationary till the mouth opens to reveal lots of white stuff. (It's yoghurt.) 6 women, 6 videos, all slow motion & close ups, & about 2 minutes long. 

It takes arrogance or chutzpah, daring & guts to do this. But it seems Creed, modest to meet, admitting to nerves, also has these qualities in spades. How else to leave New York's biggest most impressive space dark & almost EMPTY!
All Creeds other past videos/films - 23 to date - are shown in the side bunkers of the big hall. 
Most are very short, around 1 minute. One long 18 min video dating from the 1990s is set in the Field Room amid stags heads & 19th century bronzes &, subversive as ever, shows 2 smokers at a bar, hands only dipping into the ashtray. 
Creed does not title his works but numbers them. The latest is 2728, his mother Gisela, with a firm look, very still, ready to swallow her yogurt. It's the first time she has participated. 

The earliest video is work no 503, (with no title I have no idea which it was) with 609, 'Shit film Trailer,' then 'Work no 732' from 2007 is of him Flower Kicking & bashing beautiful bouquets of flowers. 
Subversive as ever. By 2012, he has got to No 1358, "Fuck Off." 
'Fuck Off' also features in his new album release  .... 
He & his band of 4 did 4 gigs on the show's opening week. I went to one. 
Creed writes the words & composes the music. "Words & music. I try to make them match up," he says in his disingenuous way. It's part stand-up comedy, part self-revelation, part clever word play. There are easy rhymes, everyday sayings ("If it's not on thing, it's the other" ......)
He is very endearing in his honesty, and the audience ends up warming to him, empathising with his vulnerability. "Feelings rule my life. It's a constant battle. Like trying to hit the sea with a hammer - no way can u beat the shit out of it!" 
Repetition & parody is his forte - indeed as in all rock/punk/pop songs - & Creed bounces up & down energetically. Some haiku-like verses like 'Border Control' hit a topical note.  His new catchy single, Understanding also has a video of Creed with different hair styles, frizz, plaits, Afro, bun .. etc.  
His latest album,' Thought lined up" is launched this week. For many his music is disarmingly simple. 
The Armory is a huge building providing high ceilings & lots of wall. Creed has covered the foyer & corridor walls with broad black diagonal stripes, some adorned with Jackson Pollock-type dribbles on white canvas.
The Board of Officers Room with its large scale portraits - used as performance space - also features his paintings, all pretty dreadful. 
Creed is no draughtsman. He is an ideas man and should stick with that. 

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