Michael Craig-Martin: Sculpture at Gagosian, London

René Magritte painted The Treachery of Images in 1929. It’s also known as This is not a pipe (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), as it is indeed merely an image of a pipe. The Belgian Surrealist was quite right. Difficult to argue with this logic.

Several decades later Michael Craig-Martin put a glass of water on a shelf and proclaimed it an oak tree [An Oak Tree (1973)]. Craig-Martin, Irish-born pioneer of conceptual art in the UK has been rethinking the nature of objects and their representation in art ever since. Whether you choose to believe that the glass of water has been transformed into an oak tree is up to you. Throughout his career, working also with painting, sculpture and printmaking, the artist has pursued his fascination with essential everyday objects. Let’s have a look at one of his recent sculptures titled Bulb (red), (2011, powder-coated steel, dimensions: 201 x 333 x 2.5 cm), now on show at Gagosian, London.

Bulb (red) (2011) Michael Craig-Martin
Bulb (red), (2011, powder-coated steel, dimensions: 201 x 333 x 2.5 cm) installation view at the Gagosian

It might take a moment to realize what we are looking at here. It’s not a bulb, but not a sculpture of a bulb either. It’s a sculpture of a drawing of a bulb.

Aside from the Surrealist link Craig-Martin’s paintings and sculpture are a cross between conceptualism and Pop Art. Mundane, mass produced objects form a large part of our culture. Linear outlines in his drawings make the subjects recognizable, but in the artist’s own words, ‘colour is what infuses all the stuff that the drawing doesn’t account for’.

Michael Craig-Martin Sculpture installation view
Michael Craig-Martin: Sculpture, installation view 

This is the first time Craig-Martin’s sculpture are exhibited indoors. When his sculptures are scattered around a landscape (such as the 2014 outdoor installation at the Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England) these artworks are there for people to interact with them. When displayed in a white-walled art gallery they are missing a trick. Locking them in a gallery guarded by security staff completely changes the experience and can be a bit intimidating. Looked at from a distance the sculptures appear as if drawn in the air. In my opinion these works belong in the open, where they add an element of surprise into landscape.


Michael Craig-Martin: Sculpture (May 31 – August 3 2019) at Gagosian, London

Read more:

artist’s website: https://www.michaelcraigmartin.co.uk/

exhibition website: https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2019/michael-craig-martin-sculpture/


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