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 Martin Creed  (1968 - )

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Lived/Active: England/Scotland      Known for: installation artist, light-themes

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
Work No. 204: Half the air in a given space
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Martin Creed is a British artist and musician.

Martin Creed was born in Wakefield, England, and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied art at the Slade School of Art* at University College London from 1986 to 1990.

Since 1987, Creed has numbered each of his works, and most of his titles are deadpan and descriptive. 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 half-filled with balloons.  Creed's Work No 850 is an athlete running through the Tate Britain gallery.

In 1996, Richard Long and Roger Ackling selected Creed to exhibit at EASTinternational.

Creed is perhaps best known for his submission for the 2001 Turner Prize show at the Tate Gallery, 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* as this could be considered art at all. His work has often excited controversy: a visitor 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".

Ironically, in recent years Creed has been exhibiting paintings in nearly every exhibition he has done. In the decade since the Turner Prize he has exhibited extensively throughout the world, including large survey shows at Trussardi Foundation, Milan (I Like Things), Bard College, New York (Feelings), and a touring exhibition which started at Ikon Gallery Birmingham and toured to Hiroshima and Seoul.

Creed formed a band, Owada, in 1994. In 1997, they released their first CD, Nothin", on David Cunningham's Piano label. Sound has also featured in his gallery-based work, with pieces using doorbells and metronomes. Since 1999 he no longer used the band name "Owada". In 2000, he published a recording of his songs under his own name with the arts publisher Art Metropole, in Toronto. He started his own label, Telephone Records, and released the single Thinking/ Not Thinking in early 2011, following it up with the single Where You Go in 2012.

Martin Creed and his band were picked by The Cribs as the 'Hottest Band In The World Right Now' on and they invited him to support them on their recent UK tour. Martin Creed is also much loved by Franz Ferdinand - regular attendees at his gigs and co-producers on his album - as well as Moshi Moshi label-mates Slow Club.

For Creed there is no difference between making music and making art. Like his Work No. 850, in which runners ran through the Tate Gallery, his music is disarmingly simple but makes an immediate impact. Work No. 1197 “All the bells in the country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes” has been commissioned to herald the start of the London Olympics, at 8.12am on 27 July 2012.

Some of Creed's works use neon 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 in London.

On art, he says: "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:

“The only thing I feel like I know is that I want to make things. Other than that, I feel like I don’t know. So the problem is in trying to make something without knowing what I want. [...] I think it’s all to do with wanting to communicate. I mean, I think I want to make things because I want to communicate with people, because I want to be loved, because I want to express myself."

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 emotional:

To me it’s emotional. Aye. To me that’s the starting point. I mean, I do it because I want to make something. I think that’s a desire, you know, or a need. I think that I recognise that I want to make something, and so I try to make something. But then you get to thinking about it and that’s where the problems start because you can’t help thinking about it, wondering whether it’s good or bad. But to me it’s emotional more than anything else."

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.


* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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