Michael Craig-Martin: Transience, Serpentine Gallery, London — ‘Beauty in ubiquity’

Michael Craig Martin's 'Untitled (Xbox control)' (2014)

Michael Craig Martin’s ‘Untitled (Xbox control)’ (2014)

“When I started drawing these ordinary, daily objects in the late 1970s,” Michael Craig-Martin says, standing in front of a characteristically garishly-coloured series of paintings, “I believed they were fairly stable in the planet. I assumed that they would not adjust over time. When I initial drew a light bulb I had no thought it would turn into a issue of design history.” Now the wiry outline of a light bulb, in vibrant pink, stands outdoors the Serpentine like a ghostly frame for a glimpse of Kensington Palace.

Craig-Martin’s show at the Serpentine, remarkably his 1st in a public gallery in his property city of London because 1989, reveals its theme through its title: Transience. Through his study of the objects that surround us — the factors that are so familiar we have turn out to be practically inured to them — he has revealed how fundamentally every thing has changed. “When I first began,” he says, “it was hammers and shoes. Nowadays, to draw ordinary issues — the factors we use most and are most familiar with — it has to be technological objects.”

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Craig-Martin’s flat, neutral style seems completely suited to the increasingly slick and smooth goods with which we now share our lives. The sharp black outlines, the blocks of colour, the drawings presented as precisely as the exquisitely engineered goods they represent. He began drawing them all from life, by hand — producing them generic via what he saw as a “style-less” graphic approach which, possibly inevitably, itself became an quickly recognisable style. Nowadays, he draws them on a pc, making use of a mouse, the medium they often seemed destined for. Representation and presentation have caught up with his planet — some of these performs would make impeccable ads for the goods they depict.

Michael Craig Martin's 'Untitled (light bulb)' (2014)

Michael Craig Martin’s ‘Untitled (light bulb)’ (2014)

Only two operates in the show function objects that are not in some way powered by electrical energy: a trainer and a carton of french fries. Both are unbranded however instantly recognisable (Adidas and McDonald’s respectively). They illustrate 1 of the most striking aspects of Craig-Martin’s evolving landscape of stuff. Whereas earlier paintings depict generic items — security pins, tools, paintbrushes, cassettes and so on — the new functions are nearly always branded. Even if that branding may possibly be absent from the representation (no logo), by means of their kind alone these are instantly recognisable and ubiquitous merchandise — an Apple iPhone or laptop, those Adidas sneakers or an Xbox controller. Forty years of documentation show how we have moved from the generic to the branded as well as from the relatively cheap to the surprisingly costly, from the hardware store to the Apple store.

This may possibly be a show of photos but it is really — if subtly — just as considerably a show about design. The art, in its deceptive blandness, reveals as a lot about the fabric of our each day lives as the most elaborate 17th-century nonetheless-life with its complex iconography of life, love and death. Craig-Martin may well have begun with a Duchampian eye for the neutrality of the “ready-made”, the located object which represented an unconscious evolution of sensible type as archetype — but now, in relating to the every day, he has been virtually forced to take his personal taste into account.

He comments on the ubiquity and unavoidability of these goods but is also seduced by them, as are we all. He jokes about when having to go out to get a pitchfork to draw (he in no way had a garden) but the iPhone is in his pocket. Alongside these items, photos of an electrical socket, a credit card and credit card reader make this clearly a show about consumption, but 1 made by means of our complicity in the method.

Craig-Martin is searching at the high-tech frames that include, convert and communicate info. The final room is defined by a continuous line drawing of a landscape of stuff, from batteries and bulbs to iPhones and headphones drawn straight on to the wall. Even though we may be absorbed in the screens and the sounds, the artist is nonetheless in a position to uncover beauty in the frame, in the outlines of the ubiquitous objects that surround us.

To February 14, serpentinegalleries.org

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Section: Arts

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