28 September 2016 | 10 °C

Martin Creed Asks What Is Art At Hayward Gallery

Martin Creed Asks What Is Art At Hayward Gallery
Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London. 
Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Martin Creed,
Work No. 200
Half the air in a given space, 1998
White balloons, Multiple parts, each balloon 12 in / 30.5 cm diameter
Overall dimensions variable 
  Installation at Galerie Analix B & L Polla, Geneva, Switzerland, 1998 (Detail)
  Courtesy Il Giardino dei Lauri, © the artist, Image courtesy the artist
Martin Creed, Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space, 1998 White balloons, Multiple parts, each balloon 12 in / 30.5 cm diameter Overall dimensions variable Installation at Galerie Analix B & L Polla, Geneva, Switzerland, 1998 (Detail) Courtesy Il Giardino dei Lauri, © the artist, Image courtesy the artist
Martin Creed
Work No. 1636
2013
© the artist, Image courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Genevieve Hanson
Martin Creed Work No. 1636 2013 © the artist, Image courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Genevieve Hanson
Martin Creed
Work No. 960
2008
© the artist 
Installation view courtesy Ikon Gallery, Birmingham,
 photo: Stuart Whipps
Martin Creed Work No. 960 2008 © the artist Installation view courtesy Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, photo: Stuart Whipps
Martin Creed,
Work No. 88 
A sheet of paper crumpled into a ball, 1995 
© the artist, Image courtesy the artist
Martin Creed, Work No. 88 A sheet of paper crumpled into a ball, 1995 © the artist, Image courtesy the artist
Martin Creed
Work No. 916
2008
Boxes
78.7 x 24 x 24 in / 200 x 61 x 61 cm
© the artist, Image courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Ellen Page Wilson
Martin Creed Work No. 916 2008 Boxes 78.7 x 24 x 24 in / 200 x 61 x 61 cm © the artist, Image courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Ellen Page Wilson

Entering the opening room of this retrospective suggests that this is not going to be your typical exhibition. After squeezing past a sofa blocking the door we're confronted by a giant neon sign saying 'mothers' rotating over our head. It feels dangerously low and most visitors instinctively duck but it just swings over head height like the oppressive hovering matriarch it represents. All the while numerous metronomes tick in asynchronicity with a cacophony akin to a colony of mechanical frogs.

The show then takes us on a rollercoaster of varied work including a scrunched up piece of paper, a pyramid of toilet rolls and a video of people force vomiting and defecating. Duchamp claimed a urinal could be art simply by placing it in a gallery and Warhol took this a step further by claiming a plinth he had once stood on was art. Martin Creed is following in their footsteps and trying to build on their post-modern legacy by re-iterating the 'anything can be art' message, but with a knowing humour.

The difficulty is that many of his works repeat this theme of 'what constitutes art' ad nauseam, so his stacks of objects and simplistic paintings fail to impress. Creed's saving grace is that, walking through this exhibition, we never got the feeling he takes himself or his work too seriously and this makes for a more enjoyable experience.

A particularly effective installation is a room filled with white balloons that starts off feeling very claustrophobic but becomes more enjoyable once you get used to it.  There's also a folding screen that reveals itself to have nothing behind it and simply a piece of blu tack pressed against the wall.

This exhibition abounds with self-referential humour and visitors will either find the whole concept of 'satirising the satirical' to be a bit too much or they'll enjoy it for what it is. We fall into the latter camp and found this show to be an immersive and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Martin Creed: what's the point of it? is on at Hayward Gallery, South Bank until 27 April. Tickets are £11 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 13 July 2015

Tabish Khan

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