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Martin Creed

Martin Creed

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Martin Creed is an artist and musician. He won the Turner Prize
Turner Prize
The Turner Prize, named after the painter J. M. W. Turner, is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50. Awarding the prize is organised by the Tate gallery and staged at Tate Britain. Since its beginnings in 1984 it has become the United Kingdom's most publicised...

 in 2001 for Work No. 227: the lights going on and off, which was an empty room in which the lights went on and off.

Life and work

Martin Creed was born in Wakefield
Wakefield is the main settlement and administrative centre of the City of Wakefield, a metropolitan district of West Yorkshire, England. Located by the River Calder on the eastern edge of the Pennines, the urban area is and had a population of 76,886 in 2001....

, England, and brought up in Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

, Scotland. He studied art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 at the Slade School of Art at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 from 1986 to 1990.

Since 1987, Creed has numbered each of his works, and most of his titles relate in a very direct way to the work's nature. Work No. 79: some Blu-tack kneaded, rolled into a ball and depressed against a wall (1993), for example, is just what it sounds like, as is Work No. 88, a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball (1994). One of Creed's best known works is Work No. 200, half the air in a given space (1998), which is a room with enough inflated balloons in it for them to contain half the air in it.

In 1996, Richard Long
Richard Long (artist)
Richard Long is an English sculptor, photographer and painter, one of the best known British land artists. Long is the only artist to be shortlisted for the Turner Prize four times, and he is reputed to have refused the prize in 1984...

 and Roger Ackling selected Creed to exhibit at EASTinternational
EASTinternational is an open submission exhibition that was launched in 1991 and takes place at the Norwich University College of the Arts. Applications from over 1,000 contemporary artists are received each year with approximately 25-30 artists selected to exhibit...

Creed is perhaps best known for his submission for the 2001 Turner Prize
Turner Prize
The Turner Prize, named after the painter J. M. W. Turner, is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50. Awarding the prize is organised by the Tate gallery and staged at Tate Britain. Since its beginnings in 1984 it has become the United Kingdom's most publicised...

 show at the Tate Gallery
Tate Gallery
The Tate is an institution that houses the United Kingdom's national collection of British Art, and International Modern and Contemporary Art...

, Work No. 227, the lights going on and off, which won that year's prize. The artwork presented was an empty room in which the lights periodically switched on and off (frequency five seconds on/five seconds off). As so often with the Turner Prize, this created a great deal of press attention, most of it questioning whether something as minimalist
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

 as this could be considered art at all. Artist Jacqueline Crofton threw eggs at the walls of Creed's empty room as a protest against the prize, declaring that Creed's presentations were not real art and that "painting is in danger of becoming an extinct skill in this country".
In 2006, Martin Creed presented an extensive exhibition with sculptures, videos and performances titled I Like Things with Nicola Trussardi Foundation
Nicola Trussardi Foundation
The Nicola Trussardi Foundation is a non-profit institution for the promotion of contemporary art and culture. Created in 1996, the Nicola Trussardi Foundation is neither a museum nor a collection...

 in Milan.

Creed formed a band, Owada, in 1994. In 1997, they released their first CD, Nothing, on David Cunningham's Piano label. Here too there is a very direct relation between the song titles and the work itself: in songs like "1-2-3-4" the entire lyrics are contained in the title. Sound has also featured in his gallery-based work, with pieces using doorbells and metronome
A metronome is any device that produces regular, metrical ticks — settable in beats per minute. These ticks represent a fixed, regular aural pulse; some metronomes also include synchronized visual motion...

s. Since 1999, he no longer uses the band name "Owada. In 2000, he published a recording of his songs under his own name with the arts publisher Art Metropole
Art Metropole
Art Metropole was founded in 1974 by the Canadian artists' group General Idea as a not-for-profit corporation incorporated under the laws of the province of Ontario. It is located in Toronto, Canada....

, in Toronto. In 2010, he provided the cover art for a Futuristic Retro Champions
Futuristic Retro Champions
Futuristic Retro Champions were a Scottish indie band from Edinburgh and Glasgow who sang and played Electropop with a Scottish brogue. They played support for such headliners as Kate Nash, Ladyhawke, The Vaselines, Bombay Bicycle Club, Charlotte Hatherley, Friendly Fires and Glasvegas, before...

 single, while supporting its launch with an appearance with his own band.

In 2009, he wrote and choreographed Work No. 1020, a live performance of Creed's own music, ballet, words and film, originally produced by Sadler's Wells, London and performed in the Lilian Baylis Studio. In 2010, Work No. 1020 was performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh as part of the Fringe Festival and was most recently performed on 21st June 2011 in the main theatre at Sadler's Wells, London.

Some of Creed's works use neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

 signs. In these cases, the title of the work usually indicates what the sign says. These pieces include Work No. 220, Don't Worry (2000) and Work No. 232, the whole world + the work = the whole world (2000), which was mounted on Tate Britain
Tate Britain
Tate Britain is an art gallery situated on Millbank in London, and part of the Tate gallery network in Britain, with Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. It is the oldest gallery in the network, opening in 1897. It houses a substantial collection of the works of J. M. W. Turner.-History:It...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...


In 2011, Creed gave work to the UK Registered Charity the Environmental Justice Foundation (1088128). A run of 20 t-shirts was made featuring his Work No. 531, all of which were hand screen printed in London and individually numbered on the inside neck. They are available from the charity.

In January 2011, Creed released the single "Thinking/Not Thinking" (TR1) on his label Telephone Records.

On art

"I don't know what art is"

"I wouldn't call myself an artist"

In an interview published in the book Art Now: Interviews with Modern Artists (2002), Creed explains that he used to 'make paintings' but never liked having to decide what to paint. He decided to stop making paintings and instead to think about what it meant, and why he wanted to make things. He says:
Creed says that he makes art works not as part of an academic exploration of 'conceptual' art, but rather from a wish to connect with people, 'wanting to communicate and wanting to say hello'. The work is therefore primarily emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

Creed's work is often a small intervention in the world, making use of existing materials or situations rather than bringing new material into the world.

External links