Martin Creed: Toast
What The Heck? 16/5 ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Hauser & Wirth, Saville Row, London 30 November 2018 – 9 February 2019
A Martin Creed show! "Whehey pals" one of my 'go to/staple/fave/very fantastic' artists. This is a very-post-show-review. If you didn't go, you'll just have to live with it. I placed Creed high up on a pedestal long ago, ever since watching a handful of interviews on Youtube (especially this one), where Creed explained why he makes art... Life is at times rather shit. We have to invent an escape and inject positivity somehow into society.
I walked into Hauser & Wirth and realised I had gone in to the wrong gallery - After re-entering the correct one, I was greeted immediately with a rather messy diagram, displaying a menu of various performances and antics. One of the listed happenings, was that a painting (Work 3113, Trees Flowers Seas Please, 2018) was to be installed/uninstalled every 20 minutes by gallery staff, which would then make room for a large projection of the film (Work No. 3093: Difficult Thoughts, 2018). This felt like a cheap one liner from a dated sitcom but if like me, you enjoy subtle piss takings of the white cube space and harbour a questionable sense of humour, you would have had a similar smirk on your face to mine. This was also a great way to forcibly expand the gallery space as well as to deliver a painting, performance and film in the process. Though, I would be interested to hear what the gallery staff thought of it all!
There was a variety of works in the room, ranging from sculptural, painting and 'sort of' ready mades. As I stood there trying to figure out if the advertised showpiece (No. 3071: Peanut Butter on Toast, 2018) was made of real gold, somebody beside me, who I presumed to be a fellow gallery visitor burst into song - Beautifully singing in a highly trained manor, something about 'not wanting to be here' over and over again. This is perhaps an absurd statement toward realism or maybe something about the ways in which we uphold false exteriors in society. The space started feeling less and less 'farty' as I became further entertained with the works, forgetting the fact that I was on the ever piggy-bankesc Savile Row. The easygoing and unserious energy made me feel like I was a fly on the wall inside a laid-back, but worryingly tidy studio.
Though, I am fond of elitism mockery wherever I can get it, this did all make me wonder if there is a limit to piss taking, at what point does it cause loss of substance? This show, for me, was rather close to the edge of being a bit too silly, somehow saved by the fact that it was hosted in such a highly esteemed institution. Creed clearly thought about the context a fair deal here and pushed the boat out. I got a strong sense of the artist not giving any fucks about potential critical reception... As long as the general 'art goer' had a fantastic time. As well as the space kicking in some sense of conservatism and formality, it soon became apparent that Creed has subtly boasted his sophisticated use of material. A variety of precious metals, traditional paint on canvas, robotic dancing socks and a craft-ish looking fox, just to name a few. It's easy to throw a load of work together in a room, and it's obviously not uncommon for an artist to work in multiple media, though it was clear that Creed had reached a high level of sophistication and dare I say 'maturity' just in terms of materials and it's visual effect. It's like I could see that the original ideas were intrinsically linked to the materials. Delivered through a well built and exact manner.
With all of this in mind, I had to take occasional intervals, just to shake my head violently and remember to stop taking everything quite so seriously. Besides, the works were all speaking very much through contemporary art language, whatever that is, and that counts for something, what else is there to really worry about? This was a designated breeding ground for purposeful nonsense, leaving little room for grumpy wannabe arts academics like myself.
Despite the light hearted atmosphere, empathy was situated in the back of my mind, for I knew that in order for Creed to have created these works, he had to have been through some sort of hell. Martin Creed is notably open and honest about his struggles with mental health, particularly depression. Would I have understood this upon seeing the works; without already knowing some of his story? Who knows! But I did, and so I could see it. This is cathartic, and could probably not exist unless forged through some pain. I'd strongly suggest watching this interview and hearing him speak about stuff. A number of performances took place within the space, by Creed himself as well as professionals and members of the public. I felt that the opportunity of having such a notable platform was fully utilised, this leads me to believe that Creed doesn't take all of this for granted, by jamming as much on to the agenda as possible over the duration of the show. Especially when considering the long and celebrated career he stands upon, it wouldn't be all to surprising to see a less efforty and much more 'vintage' show produced by someone else with a matching career behind them, but that would be rubbish. Frickin' sick one pals!
Who the Heck wrote this? Mitchell Smith Artist & Writer www.msmith.art
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