Thoughts of Growth and Loss: A review of Martin Creed, What’s The Point Of It?


Sitdowncomedian, and I took ourselves to the Martin Creed show at the Hayward gallery. We were both struggling a little, heavy hearts for different reasons, but found it a perfect antidote.

It was the first time I’ve seen the breadth and the depth of Martin Creed’s practice*.

Until this point, it’s only ever been catalogues, a few displays in group exhibitions/biennales/etc and a ramshackle live performance at Goldsmiths. I
 think the man is pretty great, I just didn’t realise how much until this show.
The thing about this show is that you just have to see it. You don’t even need to know anything more about it than that.  
Which renders this post a little superfluous. However, I will do my best to write something about it, so that you can make a point of seeing it.

Succinctly, it’s a show about ascendence (and descendence).

In as many ways you can possibly think of.
The curators at the Hayward have done a shit-hot job of taking you on a journey along that simple-but-profound-idea and it is immensely satisfying.
It is also the busiest show I’ve seen in a while, because of the frenetic and prolific nature of his work.
Yet  because of the size and the purity of his investigations, it’s not cluttered or overstated. Which feels an odd thing to say about a show that repeatedly speaks about the same thing over and over and over again.
Because he comes at it from a variety of angles, it is clear and pure – crystalline.

A diamond says the same thing about carbon over and over again and is brilliant and dazzling, without being bloated or overstated.
This show is like that.
Yes, I know, I just compared Martin Creed’s show to a diamond.
Perhaps I am guilty of overstating.

Anyway, without giving too much of the show away, you can look forward to highs and lows, ups and downs in a gorgeous cascade of variety, including:
Colour spectrums (ascending light/colour)
Musical scales (ascending and descending) on the piano – played by the security staff
Towers of boxes (ascending space)
Towers of other objects (ascending form and line)
Phallic cacti getting bigger/smaller (natural order)
Cocks doing the same 
A newly erected wall (it’s all about getting it up)
Even the ramp was blocked off (for clear reasons to do with safety) and you had to climb up and down those stairs.

Up and down, up and down, again and again and again.

It sounds like a Doctor Seuss book in visual form.

Perhaps it’s exactly like that – filled with direct poetry, profound ideas and joy joy joy for the hell of it.

A couple of nice and fitting diversions from the theme include the massive swinging MOTHERS sign. It didn’t wow me that much the second time around, but it is a crowd-pleaser.
The funny film of a dog and a couple of people tracking back and forth across the screen. It could be arbitrary, but it seemed to be triggered by people crossing the space, which I liked. And a cool trick with a car doing something similar;

The wall of tape – which was sort of like a colour spectrum, but more linear and ridiculous. 
Nipples and arseholes/nautical installations and objects, which were lovely (although not quite as lovely as Sue Webster and Tim Noble when they do similar things);

And a special mention to The Balloon Room. Although I was in no state to really plunge into that fit of joy on that day, by all accounts it was pretty exciting, if not a bit claustrophobic (like the Gormley White Light room). It is an installation that finely balanced childlike and simple joy, with opportunity for deep anxiety. That takes a certain skill.

The great wall of broccoli prints did something similar, although rather than anxiety, it produced a clear fantasy about being Martin Creed’s Broccoli Assistant:

(at a party)
“Oh, nice to meet you, what do you do”
“I work for Martin Creed, I’m his Broccoli Assistant”

with the business card:

Lauren Brown

Broccoli Assistant
Martin Creed Studios
London, UK

See? The exhibition takes you to some absurd places, without being obtusely, or disrespectfully ironic (everyone knows how much I hate irony as the core of an artwork). And because it is so generous, it also leaves plenty of room to dislike works without feeling left out or hating the whole show.

Like all good art shows should.

If you want a flourish for the well-rounded experience at the Hayward, pop across the way and head into the Royal Festival Hall, to the Singing Lift. It features his permanent ascending/descending sound work, which overlooks a different perspectve of the balloon room.

In fact, this added exterior perspective of the show was great and not something I had seen in many shows at the Hayward. It was a reflection of an exhibition which concerned itself with entirety.

From the outside ‘car park’, you could see the image of the two dogs on the side of the opposite building, and from exterior balcony, you looked towards the towers of The Shed and the Tate Modern – which had similar forms to those seen instide. (I did have a little wish that the tower of the Tate Modern had been painted in a colour spectrum by him, so it would tie all in nicely across that southern bank.)

Anyway, you should go and see the show.  I’m going back for seconds soon.

*I always call him by his full name Martin Creed. Just Creed or just Martin seems weird to me.

Image: pinched from the martin creed site itself.

systems and depravity: sarah sze, the white room, grayson perry and candice tripp.

i’ve been quite ingrained in the residency – not really leaving the ‘compound’ of hackney wick much. but i have tried to at least check out a couple of exhibitions every couple of days – get out of my head a bit.
systems: sarah sze and crystal world

i’m a sucker for a moving system in artwork. 
hany armanious’ worm castings piece bubble jet earth work was the first time i discovered the beauty of watching organic and mechanic process come together in an art gallery.
of course fischli and weiss’ der lauf der dinge is a seminal systemic work that is beautiful and progressive and subtly performative that has become my desert island piece for this kind art.
i recently loved pip stafford’s crystal workall my world is a scaffold in hatched at PICA. i thought i wrote about it here, but it turns out i was too busy getting busy in perth to bother actually blogging about it.
and in the last week or so, i’ve seen two more works that really tickled my fancy, making me think that there’s some of spooky connect happening at the moment:
crystal world at [space] in the white building. it’s across the road from performance space, so i could literally pop in and check it out, watching it grow and change. 
based on JG Ballard’s novel of the same name, it is an exhibition that is the result of an open lab reconfiguring old circuit boards and apple power macs. using rock ores, water pumps and baths, acid solutions, high voltage and electrolysis, the work is developing new forms and chemical muckery. there is a section using the live culture from natural yoghurt (to do what, i’m not sure yet) and mimesis of neuroscientific circuits using natural and commercial electronic elements.
it’s quite intriguing to watch and i always like work that has me looking and analysing the way of things in a beautiful way.

sarah sze is someone who does this super well. i’ve always liked her work and i was quite excited to see her show at victoria miro – especially as i usually only see painting in that gallery. she took over the whole of the ground and first floor galleries with a series of systemic installations.
the ground floor contained about 5 smaller works – from simple linear extensions, to complex and tenuous balancing pieces, some with movement, most with light. they are so exquisite and beautiful.
the whole gallery upstairs is darkened to host a large-scale work in the round that reminded me of a solar system, but also of the camp map of burning man (and image that went around a while ago). a pendulum swings around and across the installation, tracking form, light, connection and space. as well as her sticks and clips and string and paper – there are replicas of contemporary and natural objects, which is something that i noticed (wondering why she didn’t use a real show and/or mice).
you could get lost in following each overlapping track and path that the works make.
depravity: grayson perry and candice tripp

grayson perry is famous here.

i only know that because when i walked into the gallery to see the sarah sze show, it was crowded – full of old women and couples checking out the show. not that sze isn’t entitled to that kind of crowd, but it’s not what i usually see when i go to a show at that gallery. turns out grayson perry is on the telly and now draws massive crowds.

which is great. he has some important things to say about class  – a particularly white english thing that still really exists. and his tapestries in this show are quite amazing. based on rake’s progress, vanity of small differences documents the social mobility of contemporary life – made possible through the technological revolution (following on from the last movement made possible by the industrial revolution). it follows tim rakewell, a kid raised by a single mum and his grandmother, who marries into more money, makes it big as a geek, becomes a classic middle class smartypants, rich nouveau riche twat then ends up in the gutter. grayson’s style is garish and graphic, perfect for tapestry and ceramic vases. he uses symbols, codes and behaviours of contemporary life, so the works are easy to ‘read’.
whilst he doesn’t go into intense depravity, he scratches at the facile and unpalatable pursuit of ‘progress’ and our vapid desires. the courseness of human motivation and relationships vibrates in all those pinks, yellows, bright blues and clashed combinations of colour. they’re quite fabulous.

as a compliment, candice tripp‘s painting show at black rat projects is a stark and dark exhibition of humanity’s fight for survival with similarly depraved means. actually, both shows reveal humans’ mean-ness and shallowness.
children, masked in animals and tribal symbols appear to ‘play’, yet leave each other ostracised, dying, diseased, scarred and discarded. the competition and territorial nature of humanity, especially faced with scarcity comes through.
and maybe because i’m doing a bit of research towards HIV in southern africa, but the dynamics between the young girls in these works and the creepy beautiful titles reminded me of the social messages coming out around the disease: promiscuity, judgement, privilege and ignorance.
all of these shows had a nice balance between the way of things and the way of being. i like it when that happens.
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a visit to agnes

While waiting for the Helen lempriere opening to open, I trotted up the steps to ANSW to check out the Giacometti exhibition and the Adventures with Form in Space – The Fourth Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project (which everyone has reviewed, but hey – i’m gonna jump on the band wagon too)

Two vastly different shows, but equally as captivating.

With my NAVA discount, I got a concession price into the Giacometti and after paying almost $20 for the Picasso at NGV last month, $7 to get in was a treat!! It was a lot smaller than the afformentioned blockbuster, but the difference with this one, there was no filler. The byline for the show was ‘drawings, prints and sculptures from the Maeght Collection’ and the only thing that didn’t come under that heading was a print from Margaret Olley’s collection. But I forgive the slight deviation.

I’m exposing my absolute geekness, but the works were all amazing! The pencil drawings and mostly lithographic prints of his analytical drawings were largely that which I had studied most of my degree and used his technique in a lot of my drawings. It was amazing to see the sculptural quality to them plotting out the figure in space, or the object in space. He is the master of making an incomplete drawing look so complete that it was done before it was started.

His drawings and paintings were all about structure. Provide the structure and the form will appear. What a dream boat. Well, actually, I’m not that much of a formalist, but I good smattering of structure and form will really float my boat

I wished that his paintings were on display. I would love to see his amazing plots of figure in space in brush stroke upon brush stroke that eventually a figure appears. Similar to the way a Frank Auerbach figure emerges from the material, a Giacometti figure emerges from the structure.

The show was clean, concise and succinct. Exactly what I needed. no fucking bullshit. Not too much wall text and NO audio guides! yess!!! exactly what a show like that should be. It’s not rocket science kids – if you want to know more about the artist, check him out on the net, go buy the book in the bookstore, or borrow a book from the library, don’t expect a spoon-feeding – you gotta think for yourself sometime!

After the joy of the Giacometti show, I popped down to the café and treated myself to a chai latté and lemon tart. And boy were they good. But about 2 minutes after getting my treat, fire alarms started going off in the gallery! It was all quite bizarre because I wasn’t sure if they were alarms to start with.. they were quite musical compared to the blare that my work building has to put up with every now and again. So they battened down the hatches and we were kind of stuck in the café. The fire doors were shut off at the start of the downstairs gallery, so I couldn’t check out the Balnaves show, and the other door was at the top of the escalators, so there really was no way out, except to wait.
Or bitch and moan if you were the spoilt teenage princess that was flouncing her way around nearby.

Once all the drama was over and we were informed that it was a false alarm from the kitchen on level 1 (Barry, you burnt the toast again!), I was able to check out Adventures and it was fantastic! Another who’s who of top Australian emerging artists.

Jonathan Jones’ wall of fluorescent lights was actually quite comforting and mesmerizing, John Meade‘s work might have been OK to someone, but didn’t really kick start my heart, Nick Mangan’s work was not nearly as interesting as the one in Uncanny Nature at ACCA and same goes for Hany Armanious’ work: the ‘machine’ looked as though it might have worked, and I liked the allusion to possibility and suggestion of machinery/industry, but the rest of it was kinda.. eh. I did try and make it exciting for myself and blow the candle out on the CC work, but being made mostly of wax and a strong wick, didn’t work. But ultimately, I was kinda bored with his work. And given than I’ve mentioned work by Hany 3 times in the last month, I think I need to see other people.

My favourite works from the show were Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s Self Storage. I’ve liked their work for a long time, despite having serious professional jealousy of them, and was stoked to be able to see the work in the flesh. Their garage of stuff was awesome and invoked all kinds of experiences for me, which I think is a fairly mainstream experience, but you can’t get away from it. I loved checking out the detail, the little clues into their life. I noticed the Will Self book and the big can of Polyester Resin and the milk crates of spray cans. I couldn’t help thinking of Matthew Barney when I saw the Centaur mannequin. (Is is still a mannequin if it’s half mann, half horse?).

I did read in the catalogue how the work was devoid of museological reference – no official catalogue, label, numbering system, but was more like a game of tetris and I liked that idea, although I did feel like being facetious and pointing out the labeling system on the frame: Front End, Bott, Top Right, Top Left.

I had 2 other favourites. Damiano Bertoli’s Continuous Moment sublime appropriation of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Wreck of Hope. There may be a whole bunch of theory behind it, as indicated by the catalogue, and I appreciate the 3-dimensionality that Bertoli added to the idea, but I just liked the work ‘cos it’s a beautiful appropriation.
Simplistic? maybe, but the first time I saw it at the National Sculpture Award (RIP) at the NGA last year, it actually put the idea of ‘sublime’ into context for me. It made it a contemporary idea (which I guess it is in the current political and social climate) and something I could appreciate the beauty of and come to appreciate the original. That in itself is a worthy pursuit (in moderation).

Damiano Bertoli Continuous Moment

Nike Savvas Atomic, Full of love, Full of wonder

And lastly Nike Savvas’ amazing installation of coloured balls Atomic, full of love, full of wonder was rad as well. The gallery guide kept telling everyone it was ‘the highlight’ which I would dispute, but it was pretty cool. While I was there, the fans were on and the back section of the piece went mad with agitation. It was OK, but it just made me want the whole piece to do that and I actually preferred the stasis of the piece. The chasm of possibility, like the whole piece could move at any moment. poised. Similar to the Ranjani Shettar piece from the Biennale, I could have stood in wonder for ages. And I love a piece that does that for me. When I can, for a brief moment forget about the context of a piece and have some fun with it, see it as a child sees it and drink it in.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

entropy and tuvalu?

Regular readers of she sees red will know that i’ve developed a piece called Entropy, which will be showing at Platform 2 in Melbourne, in November. Checking out the Art Life blogspot yesterday, I noticed that Tim Silver, who I might say is one of my super-favourite artists at the moment, is developing photographic works on entropy in Tuvalu! (For those who aren’t fantastic on geography, Tuvalu is the island most noted for its domain tag .tv that has enabled them to build roads and hospitals from the proceeds of selling domain space to tv networks!)
How does that happen? Entropy isn’t exactly a term bandied about, and I find out that someone who i totally dig is working on it as well! Not that I have to be exclusive – not at all! I’m stoked that I seem to be keeping some half-decent company, but the same happened with Liminal Personae – we thought we were being all niche-like and selective, then there are 3 shows that deal with liminality within 3 months of each other!
It’s all just freaky man!!

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we built this city on rock and roll

I’ve just come back from the pub, hanging out with Jaki Middleton, David Lawrey and Kathy Gray after the opening at the Wollongong City Gallery. Jaki and David’s work The Sound Before You Make It is showing in the Mercury Gallery at the moment and it’s so refreshing to have some cool shit to see in town at the moment. I feel like going into the space every 20 mins, just to get my groove on. In fact i feel like going in there every 20 minutes with a stack of friends and dancing to it with all the Thriller moves so it really feels like a party! I can see why a kid nicked one of the figures when the work was at Campbelltown.
It was also pretty cool to have the sydney kids in town – introducing them to sushi train, exposing them to the dive and comfort of the oxford tavern and giving them suggestions of cool things to do in Wollongong, and I realised that I’m a terrible tour guide. They’re going to check out Project tomorrow, which is cool. Hope they like it – I’m becoming more proud of the space the more I find out about other spaces, especially the other ARIs in Sydney.
At the opening at MOP last night I was talking to a friend about sitting spaces and having people come to see work there and he was saying how few people the artist run spaces get through the door in the big smoke. I was proud to say that liminal had 640 checking out the show over the 2.5 weeks it was open. That’s a pretty good turn out! I think it’s the 2nd or 3rd largest show we’ve had since the gallery opened and it actually measures up to the what the ‘big kids’ are doing elsewhere. OK, so the rest of the shows they may put on are kick-ass all the time, but hey, we’re getting there.

Speaking of the show – it was so awesome to see a show that was genuinely entertaining. I’ve known Christopher Hanrahan a while, so I knew it would be fun, but it was a ripper. His performance video was so cooln – He spelled out in human letters (YMCA style) ‘the old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be’, while singing it, a la the Simpsons. You couldn’t hear it when the opening was in full swing, but being a girly swat, i got there early and experienced the joy of it as a whole – it was ace! And the other highlight for me was the smell of the packing crate work – Falling Down (?). The smell? Yeah, i know it’s weird, but the warmer the piece got, with the lamps inside it, it emitted this wonderfully nostalgic smell of warm wood, reminiscent of cosy places and open fires or saunas, or something comforting. It was probably so far from the experience Chris intended from the piece, but hey. His coffee mug tree was choice – so precise, yet so precarious, which I think is Christopher’s artwork in a nutshell.

I’ve got an appointment with the tax gal in the morning before an artists’ lunch for the liminal personae kids tomorrow, so I’ll do a wrap up blog about the show and a guide to finding a good artists’ tax agent over the weekend sometime.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx