The British artist Michael Craig-Martin will be presenting his first major museum show in Asia at the Himalayas Museum in Shanghai. Michael Craig-Martin NOW will run from 3 February – 31 March 2015.
The exhibition will feature 50 new paintings, each depicting ubiquitous objects of contemporary life such as a roll of toilet paper, a milk carton and a chair, as well as items of modern technology from a computer mouse and laptop to an iPhone. The works, rendered in vibrant, animated hues represent a continuation of the visual language that Craig-Martin has developed over the past 40 years as a means of interpreting the world as we experience it in the 21st-century. He said: “When I first visited the Museum I had the idea that this exhibition should feel as contemporary as possible. Some objects, such as books, stay much the same over the years. But there are others, such as the iPhone, that did not exist a few years ago and which may disappear from daily life in only a few years. I want this exhibition to offer a picture of contemporary life as we know it today in 2015 – NOW.”
Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941. He moved to the United States with his family in 1945 and studied fine art at Yale University at the same time as Richard Serra, Brice Marden, and Chuck Close. He returned to Europe in the mid-1960s, becoming one of the key figures in the first generation of British conceptual artists. From 1973 to 1988 and 1994 to 2000, he taught at Goldsmiths College in London where he was a powerful influence on a group of students who later became known as the Young British Artists (YBAs), including Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, and Damien Hirst.
From his early box-like constructions of the late 1960s Craig-Martin moved towards the use of ordinary household objects in his work. In 1974, he exhibited his iconic piece An Oak Tree (1973), which consists of a glass of water standing on a shelf high on the gallery wall. In the accompanying text, Craig-Martin asserts, through a self-administered Q&A, that despite appearances, he has changed the glass of water into an oak tree.
In the late 1970s, he began to make line drawings of common, household objects. Over the years, he has created an ever-expanding vocabulary of these images which form the foundation of his work to this day. The focus of his work shifted decisively to painting in the 1990s, using the same range of boldly outlined motifs and vivid colour schemes in unexpected combinations, applied on canvas and later to aluminium panels, while also working on increasingly complex installations of wall paintings.
Craig-Martin’s recent large powder coated steel sculptures are essentially three-dimensional line drawings in space, again of readily identifiable objects. The giant umbrella or light bulb is immediately recognised by the viewer and yet the size, monochromatic palette, and flatness of the sculpture undermines the function and meaning of each object, urging the viewer to question what is really before him or her.
Craig-Martin’s work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. He has had solo exhibitions at institutions across the world, including the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2006), and, most recently, the Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Germany (2013). A retrospective of his work was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1989), and a second at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2006–07). Permanent large-scale installations can be seen at the Woolwich Arsenal DLR station in the UK; the European Investment Bank, Luxembourg; and the Laban Dance Centre, Greenwich, UK, a collaboration with architects Herzog & DeMeuron. He was an Artist Trustee of Tate from 1989 to 1999, received a CBE in 2001, and was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2006. Craig-Martin lives and works in London.
The exhibition Michael Craig-Martin NOW is generously supported by the British Council and forms part of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange (YOCE).
The exhibition is generously supported by the British Council and is an official 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange (YOCE) event.
Photo: © P C Robinson Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved