Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed is one of Britain’s most playful, irreverent and thought-provoking artists. The entire Hayward Gallery is dedicated to his new exhibition – appropriately named ‘What’s the point of it?’ – including three outdoor sculptural terraces, the entrance foyer, the lift and, strangely, the toilets. Expect to see weird and wonderful artworks of varying size, installations that require participation, arbitrary sounds emanating from somewhere unknown and a whole host of other delightful surprises.
The first thing that one will notice, even before entering the gallery, is a picture of Creed with a larger-than-life smile adorning his face. This sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. After passing through the blackened doors, one enters into an unfamiliar habitat that differs from what one might expect from your usual gallery.
In the centre of the first room, a monolithic rotating sculpture with the word ‘Mothers’ displayed in decadent neon lights slowly spins around, creating a moving shadow that routinely covers the other, smaller pieces. To the left of ‘Mothers’, enclosed in a glass case, is a round, scrunched-up piece of paper grandiloquently displayed as if it were Rodin’s The Thinker. The room’s atmosphere is filled by a continuous ticking created by metronomes that have been placed strategically along the bottom of the walls. Occasionally, a bout of laughter comes from nowhere to the visitor’s surprise. This constant, slightly disconcerting noise provides a suitable soundtrack to the ostensible madness of this exhibition.
One wonders where the art ends and reality begins. This seems to be Creed’s intention – to challenge that boundary. For example, a man dressed as a security guard sits by a piano begins playing the keys from right to left, descending in tone. Is he an actor? A performance artist? Perhaps some sort of renegade? The visitor is left clueless yet intrigued.
On the largest wall of the Hayward Gallery, there are hundreds of small paintings of colourful interpretations of broccoli. The intermittent sound of what one can only assume is flatulence provides the soundtrack to this room. All of a sudden the lights go down and a film is displayed on one of the walls. The projection shows a cat walking by, a few random mutterings and an actor who inexplicably snaps his clapperboard and says ‘action’. The film ends and the lights return. This occurs every few minutes. This video is emblematic of the nonsensical nature of Creed’s intriguing exhibition.
Creed incorporates the humorous and the sublime in order to create an atmosphere that is at once exciting and aesthetically pleasing. He seems to have eliminated the seriousness that ostensibly pervades in the contemporary art world and created a simple space for exciting and light-hearted works.
So, we must ask, what’s the point in all of this? Well, Creed is offering a playful opposition to the grandiose themes of art. This exhibition is brilliantly self-referential in that Creed is criticizing the meretricious meanings often attributed to pieces of art while at the same time exposing a paradoxical meaning of his own. Creed is purposely controverting himself in an attempt to challenge the existential meanings that are so often implicit in contemporary works. One is made to wonder whether there is any point to all of this, and that, paradoxically, seems to be Creed’s point.
Creed’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is open until the 27th April 2014, and for anyone interested in the playful side of art, it is thoroughly recommended.
For further information on Martin Creed’s thought provoking exhibition held at The Southbank Gallery please click link: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/martin-creed-79080
How should we characterise artworks that attempt to resist any attachment to meaning? To what extent has Creed succeeded in attempting to challenge the grandiose themes that so often attributed to works of art?