Martin Creed (born 1968) is a British artist and musician who lives and works in London.
Creed approaches art making with humour, anxiety, and experimentation, and with the sensibility of a musician and composer, underpinning everything he does with his open ambiguity about what art is.
In 2001, he was awarded the Turner Prize for Work No 227: The Lights Going On and Off, which was exactly what its title describes, in an empty gallery.
Creed has exhibited extensively worldwide and has had major survey shows at Park Avenue Armory, New York, Hayward Gallery, London and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.
In 2016 Creed exhibited ‘Work No. 2630 UNDERSTANDING’ a new 25-foot- tall rotating red neon that was on view at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6 in New York City, commissioned by Public Art Fund.
Rio Residency 2014
Martin Creed’s residency in Rio took place over three weeks in 2014, and was the artists’ first outside of England. Creed worked consistently each day creating portraits, paintings on canvas, sculptures made from found furniture and boxes, and working directly onto the walls. He also made neon works to be installed in the gardens. These were Portuguese translations of his well-known neons like LOVE and FRIENDS. In total Creed created around fifty works during his stay.
The artist explained: ‘I’ve never been able to go to a place without preconceptions: without arrangements being made beforehand to do a certain kind of work. Here it was a very open invitation and that is unusual and generous. For a long time, I believed that to be a real artist, I should have a studio, but I have found that working in a studio often feels artifical — like it’s a waste of time to work in a studio because it is not real. Now I prefer to try to work wherever I may be, or where anyone might have me — in my flat, in the street, in exhibition venues, in concert halls.”
Creed’s artworks often use the same materials to adapt to various locations. This is the case, for example, of the installation of Work No. 1513: Half the air in a given space that he created for the home of the Botanical Garden. This work consists of hundreds of orange balloons that occupy a space in which the public is invited to enter. Creed has created similar works since 1998, when, at an exhibition in Switzerland, not knowing what material to use, he decided to use air to make something.
Creed also invited the employees of the house where he lived in Rio to be models for a number of portraits. Some of these are ‘Blind’ portraits, in which Creed painted without looking at the result, either with his back to the canvas or with his hand and the paper inside a closed box. Others were ‘jumping up’ portraits, in which the canvas was mounted high on the wall, so that Creed has to jump up to reach it, to make the marks on it. The process forces the artist to focus on the process rather than the result, creating lively rhythms within the final results.
Creed said of his residency: ‘When I feel like I’m under control, I usually do not find it to be good work in the end. When I stay at home, things can get too controlled. It’s usually better when things are out of control, even if you don’t like it like that. I feel like you have to try to put yourself in different situations and see what you can do, see how you can live. Like in a scientific experiment where they might put something in different environments and see what happens. It’s like jumping into the sea: if you don’t swim, you die.’