Martin Creed

Work No. 944


Not on display

Martin Creed born 1968
21 works on paper, ink
Displayed: 372 × 6000 × 25 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
ARTIST ROOMS Presented by the artist jointly to National Galleries of Scotland and Tate and acquired with assistance of the ARTIST ROOMS Fund, supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and Tate Members 2011


Work No.944 comprises twenty-one individually framed sheets of A4 paper displayed along side each other in a long row. Each sheet of paper has been entirely covered in a single colour using one of a set of twenty-one felt-tipped pens of the sort that children are often given in clear plastic wallets. Creed has said: ‘I find that it’s difficult to choose, to decide that one thing’s more important than the other ... So what I try and do is to choose without having to make decisions.’ (Quoted in Louisa Buck, ‘Martin Creed’, Artforum, vol.38, no.6, February 2000, p.111.) This involves keeping a range of options available, like having the lights turn on then off in his piece Work No.227: The lights going on and off 2000 (Tate T13868). In much the same way, by using every felt-tip pen in a set of twenty-one, Creed is saved from having to make a decision about which colour to privilege.

By identifying his works primarily through a numbering system, Creed accords them equal status, regardless of size or material. His idiosyncratic approach is born out of this refusal to create hierarchies and out of a playful concern with the conundrum of wanting both to make something and nothing: ‘the problem was to attempt to establish, amongst other things, what material something could be, what shape something could be, what size something could be, how something could be constructed, how something could be situated … how many of something there could be, or should be, if any, if at all.’ (Quoted in Virginia Button, The Turner Prize: Twenty Years, London 2003, p.172.) His interrogation of his own motives reveals an anxiety about ‘making something extra for the world’ (quoted in Button 2003, p.172).

Creed’s work emerges from an ongoing series of investigations into commonplace phenomena. His subtle interventions reintroduce us to elements of the everyday. Creed’s choice and use of materials – plain A4 sheets of paper, blu-tack, masking tape, party balloons, simple or ‘unpoetic’ language as text or as lyrics to songs – is a celebration of the ordinary, a spotlight on the ambiguity of everyday ‘stuff’.

Further reading   
Martin Creed, exhibition catalogue, Ikon, Birmingham 2008, p.44.

Helen Delaney
May 2010

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