Martin Creed Wins Turner Prize 2001
Martin Creed was awarded the 2001 Turner Prize, at the Tate on 9th December.
Serious and intelligent, intellectually rigorous and thoroughly intuitive, Creed's work is also exuberant and accessible. He deliberately places it in the realm of the everyday – when asked 'What would you be if you weren't an artist?' Creed answers: 'I wouldn't say I am an artist…I want to make things that can live now…it can be good or bad stuff…… art galleries are places where I have been able to do what I do…' (Interview with Andrew Wheatley in Martin Creed Works, ed. by Godfrey Worsdale, Southampton Art Gallery/Pale Green Press, 2000.) His word asks searching questions about sculpture and the display of work in museums and galleries.
As you entered the balloon filled gallery which was Work No 200 (recent touring exhibition initiated by Southampton City Art Gallery, 2000) the thought processes of the artist went through your head. If sculpture is about form, weight, space, then it is also about the spaces between forms and around space? If viewing a work of sculpture means negotiating the space between viewer and sculpture, how can that be demonstrated? If it is physical, let's make it physical - let's fill the space up so that we can learn about space by having it taken away from us. What to use? Something hard and soft, uniform yet volatile, visible but opaque - BALLOONS! Balloons that fill an entire gallery and way above head height. Not since being a child did an experience fulfil the need for excitement and knowledge so perfectly. (The kids loved it too.) Godfrey Worsdale writing in the exhibition catalogue, describes the room as "an overwhelming and monumental work of art: a work in which the viewer can be situated and consumed. This magnificent spectacle is, however, as misleading in its grandeur as the Blu-Tack is deceptively diminutive. Work No. 200 only comes into existence when, through interaction with people, the balloons start to float away, are burst or deflate. As this process continues, the work accelerates through its crescendo, after which we are left with an empty space. It is at his point that the reality of the work is at its most profound.'
The exhibition was one of the most intelligent comments on the display of works of art in galleries to date, re-iterating those fundamental questions as to what is a work of art, and how is it affected by the context in which it is shown. This reminds us that the gallery is only one element in the process of showing art, which can be shown in many other places. Questioning how things are done is often a prerequisite to improving the means and quality of re-presenting art. In another piece, sculpture from the stores was brought to the gallery and spread around with no design at all - a jumble sale cum roomful of sale cast offs, made up of works by Rodin and Henri Gaudier-Brezska, Nick Munro and George Fullard. In a further room there is a perfectly formed bump on the otherwise smooth white wall, masking tape cut in one inch squares and built up from the wall in layers, evocative works made from brass mirror plates. These hand tools and materials of gallery display are companions to the ubiquitous crumpled up piece of paper which always accompanies discussion of Martin Creed, and the piece of blue tack, which if looked at closer reveals the artist's or gallery technician’s thumb print, left as it was pressed home. A quiet comment on the authorship of the work of art and its display within the museum and gallery.Martin Creed was born in 1968 in Wakefield and educated at the Slade School, London, 1986 – 90. He was short-listed for the Turner Prize on the strength of the exhibition Martin Creed Works, organised by Southampton City Art Gallery and shown at Leeds City Art Gallery, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, and Camden Arts Centre, London, and Art Now: Martin Creed at Tate Britain, London. He has however shown widely throughout the UK and abroad. He is represented in the UK by Cabinet, email. He has made three CDs either individually or with his band, owada. For further information see either the catalogue Martin Creed Works, (op cit) or the catalogue for, The Turner Prize, Tate Britain 2001.
Much of the reaction to the Turner prize win has been in response to the work in the Turner Prize exhibition, Adrian Searle in The Guardian (10/12/01) points out that, 'He is good at making something out of almost nothing, which is often seen as a kind of virtue, but which here has had people spluttering and complaining that anyone could have done it.' Fiachra Gibbons writes about 'Creed's brand of cheap and cheeky DIY art - which as well as crumpling pieces of paper also extends to sticking bits of Blu-Tack on gallery walls - has made him a hero to many art students, who admire his lack of pretension and the questions he poses about what art is?' See also Adrian Searle's article, The Guardian, 11/12/01.
In awarding Creed the Prize "the jury praised the deftness and breadth of his recent work. They admired his audacity in presenting a single work in the exhibition, and noted its strength, rigour, wit and sensitivity to the site. Coming out of the tradition of minimal and conceptual art, his work is engaging, wide ranging and fresh" (Press Release, Tate, Dec 9th 2001.)
Text by Les Buckingham.