Martin Creed’s current exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset includes a range of media and approaches, from acrylic paintings on canvas to collections of found objects, including road vehicles. He was also exhibiting several videos, which were accompanied by music tracks he had recorded. The tracks were available to buy in the gift shop as an album. I think it is interesting that Creed has chosen to release his music separately from his videos as hearing it without simultaneously viewing the video will lead to a different experience and interpretation. This suggests that Creed is flexible in how people experience his work, particularly with the music tracks, as it would be a very different experience listening to the CD while driving, for example, compared to listening to it while also processing the visual stimulus of the video footage.
All the of the works were named as Work No. followed an individual number (such as Work No. 2695). A few pieces also had subtitles, but the majority of the artwork titles gave no clues or indication as to the nature or meaning of the work. Initially this was frustrating, as I wanted to understand what each piece was about and the lack of any contextual information left me feeling confused and a bit lost. However, in retrospect I can appreciate that titling your work in such a generic way gives the viewer more freedom to interpret your work and to experience it without being influenced by words.
There were no labels to indicate which piece of artwork was which: the only way you could identify each piece was by referring to a printed copy of the list of work available from the reception desk (which I have attached as a separate document along with my notes). At first, this felt frustrating, but as I walked through the exhibition I began to appreciate the lack of labels and curation information, as there was nothing on display other than the actual artwork.
I initially struggled to understand Creed’s work and what united them, but I found that as I walked through more of the exhibition rooms, I could begin to identify themes within his work. It became clear that one of Creed’s themes was ‘barriers’, from the box that contains a product (for example, puppy training pads and wet-wipes) to the fences that hold back refugees at border control points.
Many pieces of his work focused on the repetition of both vertical and horizontal lines and this tied in neatly with one of his videos that showed refugees behind fences (Work No. 2533), emulsion painted on the wall (Work No. 2709) and an installation of a glass panels and steel that obscured your view and forced you to walk through a corridor (Work No. 1804).
His direct referencing of refugees and migrants in his final two videos (Work No. 2530 and Work No. 2533) forces the viewer to consider this current issue that is causing huge debate throughout Europe; however, these videos were shown in the final exhibition room, and it was only at this point that I felt I began to make sense of the work from the previous exhibition rooms.
I found visiting this exhibition to be rewarding as it is the first time I have experienced such a wide array of media from a single artist in one exhibition. It has made me realise that it is possible to respond to a theme in a variety of different media and approaches and yet still tie the pieces together to be understood as a whole. I found the strong sense of Creed’s personal expression to be inspiring.
Links and Further Resources
All photos are from Hauser & Wirth’s online exhibition information, available here
Hauser & Wirth ‘What You Find’ exhibition information here
‘What You Find’ list of works here
Martin Creed’s official website here