Michael Craig-Martin

Drawings 1967-1992, Recent Paintings and Prints.


The timelessness of the works by world-renowned artist Michael Craig-Martin is astonishing. His concise contour drawings present ordinary objects, some of them interlocking, others in isolation. Combining traditions from European and American art, as well as the two different techniques of drawing and painting, his subject matter and visual idiom make occasional references to Pop art, Ready-mades and Surrealism.


Longbox, 1967, is his earliest drawing in the exhibition Drawings 1967-1992, Recent Paintings and Prints. Like his Study for Formica Box, 1968, it consists of crepe tape affixed to isometric plotting paper commonly used for construction drawings of actual objects. Having reached a turning-point in his work, Craig-Martin begins to explore drawing, considered a conservative technique at the time. He decides to draw easily identifiable, mass-produced everyday objects, explaining in an interview that "I chose them because they seemed to me to constitute a true universal language in the modern world, objects so ubiquitous they had become invisible and without special value".


Craig-Martin uses an ever expanding inventory of books, umbrellas, lightbulbs, cassettes, globes, ladders, drawers, and many others. Pared down to simple uninflected lines, these objects exist somewhere between the generic and the particular. The images without any trace of subjective embellishment are easy to recognise and identify. Some of his original drawings,  done in pencil on paper, go back thirty years, and continue to serve as templates in digital form. In Paint Roller, 1983 he used black tape to outline an apparently suspended, isolated object in three-quarter, high-angle perspective – a display technique that informs many of his works. Study for MOMA Project, 1990 or Study for Sunrise, 1982-83, on the other hand, consist of a transparent arrangement of interlocking objects. His initially chaotic-seeming works encourage the audience to allow their gaze to oscillate between fragment and whole.


It is only from the mid-1990s that Craig-Martin also begins to do colour prints and paintings in his signature style. In this exhibition, Envy and Pride represent the Seven Deadly Sins, 2008 series. Their titles appear in upper-case letters on a uniform ground. Of the accompanying objects, however, only the outlines are shown, so that they recede even though they have been painted over the letters. Adding words to his flexible repertoire of objects results in a narrative interplay of image and language. If the subject matter of these paintings is straightforward and easily accessible, the way they are produced is lengthy and intricate, involving up to thirty painstakingly applied coats of acrylic. In his most recent paintings, Desk Chair, 2012, and Chair, 2012, both contours and backgrounds are in deep black while the objects – design classics – stand out in glowing colour. By exaggerating their dimensions, and selecting seemingly random colours, the artist reverses the mundane familiarity of his objects.


Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941. He grew up and was educated in the United States, studying Fine Art at the Yale University School of Art. On completion of his studies in 1966, he returned to Britain, where he has lived and worked ever since. Even in those early days, he was active not just as an artist but also as a tutor, becoming an influential teacher at Goldsmiths College, London, and considered a key figure in the emergence of the Young British Artists in the early 1990s. Craig-Martin's works feature in the world's most prestigious galleries and museums, e.g. the Tate Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.  A comprehensive monograph by renowned art critic Richard Cork was published in 2006 on the occasion of a retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. In the same year, Craig-Martin was made a Member of  the Royal Academy of Arts. He lives in London.




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