Reading with Globe is a drawing made directly onto the wall with black adhesive tape. It depicts a group of nine objects, which are represented in simple outline. The objects are clustered close together in a balanced composition. They are a table, a stepladder, a filing cabinet, two chairs (facing backwards and forwards), a globe, an ice-cube tray, a book and a light bulb. Although the pieces of furniture standing in the background appear to be in correct proportion to one another, the foreground objects – globe, book, ice cube tray and light bulb – are all enlarged to unnatural proportions. The globe, positioned directly in front of the table, occupies the centre of the image. The book, to its left, lies open, its blank, white pages offering nothing to read. Like all Craig-Martin’s wall drawings, Reading with Globe is intended to exist as a temporary installation that may be infinitely repeated. The artist has specified that only one version of each drawing may exist at any one time. The drawing is made by projecting a 35mm slide onto the wall. It may be projected to any dimension. The artist prefers the work to be installed alone on the wall, even if it is small. On its first exhibition at Tate in 1981, the drawing was enlarged to nearly six metres in height. The slide was created from an original drawing made on translucent drawing film using very narrow black adhesive tape. This original drawing and two copies of the slide are essential constituents of the work held by Tate, although they are not intended for exhibition. The artist retains copies of the original drawing and the slide as well as the right to exhibit his copy of the drawing and to trace from it.

For Craig-Martin, the diagrammatic representation of ordinary objects is a visual equivalent to naming them. He makes drawings from life of man-made objects onto sheets of A4 tracing paper. The object is viewed from a perspective which emphasises its three-dimensionality. Each object is drawn to fill the page. The drawings are then traced over onto sheets of acetate using very narrow adhesive tape. He has explained: ‘this line generalises the object, gives it the diagrammatic quality you refer to. It also gives a unity to the character of the line itself, so that the line, in a sense, drops away. I want my pictures of objects to look as much like unadulterated facts as the objects themselves.’ (Quoted in Michael Craig-Martin: A Retrospective 1968-1989, p.72.) Craig-Martin has assembled a ‘dictionary’ of drawn objects over the years, from which he selects what he needs for a new configuration. Putting the objects together in a group such as that depicted in Reading with Globe results in deliberate confusions of scale, since objects not normally the same size have been allocated equal dimensions. Craig-Martin began making wall drawings in the late 1970s. Initially, in such works as Iron, Watch, Safety Pin, Pliers 1978 (British Council Collection), the objects were transparent and superimposed, their overlapping outlines creating a disorientating network of lines. In 1980 he made a series of Reading drawings, including Reading with Ironing Board (Waddington Galleries, London) and Reading with Shoes (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra). In these, as in Reading with Globe, the objects may overlap, but are opaque and are arranged in spatial relation to one another. The drawing of a book is present in all these Reading works, operating as a pun on the visual vocabulary being presented, which the viewer is offered to ‘read’. Following the logic of Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made, which was established in 1917 by titling a urinal Fountain (remade 1964, Tate T07573), Craig-Martin sees everyday objects as models for works of art. He has stated: ‘I try to get rid of as much meaning as I can. People’s need to find meanings, to create associations, renders this impossible. Meaning is both persistent and unstable.’ (Quoted in Michael Craig-Martin: A Retrospective 1968-1989, p.73.)

Further reading:
Michael Craig-Martin, exhibition catalogue, Fifth Triennale India, British Council, New Delhi 1982, p.6, reproduced pp.11 and 15
Michael Craig-Martin: A Retrospective 1968-1989, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1989, reproduced front cover, pp.86-7, pl.28 and p.126
Michael Craig-Martin: Selected Works 1966-1975, exhibition catalogue, Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 1976

Elizabeth Manchester
December 2002