Michael Craig-Martin’s first Netherlands solo show invites viewers to appreciate beauty in mundanity
The painter who influenced a generation of artists tells It’s Nice That how he attempts to highlight the everyday material objects that fill our lives through exercising documentation of the present.
- Dalia Al-Dujaili
- 21 September 2021
In a perfectly apt symbol of our times, a face mask is the subject of just one of Michael Craig-Martin’s pieces in his new show entitled All Things Considered at Amsterdam’s Reflex Gallery. “When we try to understand past civilisations – the stone age, ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Aztecs – we do so by examining the objects they created and used,” Craig-Martin says. “My work is like an archaeology of the present.”
Despite him feeling that Amsterdam has been part of his life as an artist since the early 70s, he tells It’s Nice That, this is the artist’s first exhibition in the Netherlands. The paintings feature Craig-Martin’s signature bold colours highlighting inanimate objects which hint towards larger themes at play. For example, a laptop might simply sum up our collective recent history of working from home during a pandemic. But some paintings extend beyond the pandemic: the show is a curated selection of his paintings from the last six years, to a time before most of us had heard of coronavirus.
The painter wanted to “take this opportunity to give an overview of the range of my paintings for those unfamiliar with my work or who only know it through reproduction,” he says. He therefore sought to include single image paintings, fragment paintings, compositions involving a variety of images; “paintings large and small,” he explains to It’s Nice That.
Michael Craig-Martin is known for fostering young and emerging artists. By teaching at Goldsmiths College School of Art, he became influential on a generation of his students including Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, and Damien Hirst, who became known as the Young British Artists. The Irish-born London-based artist is also known for his precise painting method – a technique which results in a clearly distinguishable Craig-Martin-esque depiction. The outlines of the objects he portrays are created by layering tape and paint, using acrylic on aluminium, as he attempts to ask us to look at the mundane objects around us and appreciate beauty which may perhaps be otherwise overlooked.
“In reproduction my work can appear simply graphic,” says Craig-Martin. “Only by seeing the work in person can one experience its intense physicality and its emphasis on the direct and active response of the viewer to both the object and the image.” As a result, Craig-Martin claims that he would like the viewer to gain a sense of being “in the moment” when asked how he wants his audience to feel upon experiencing the paintings firsthand.
The show is announced alongside the celebration of Craig-Martin’s 80th birthday. It opens on 2 October–15 December 2021. Alongside the exhibition, Reflex Gallery will present a new publication containing Craig-Martin’s latest works.
Michael Craig-Martin: Untitled (mask 2) (Copyright © Michael Craig-Martin, 2020, Courtesy of Gagosian and Reflex Amsterdam)
About the Author
Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.