Friday, 11 April 2014


KIDS Screenprint,  paper 65.7 x 100.8, image 48,1 x 84.2cm

ALAN CRISTEA GALLERY, Cork St, until May 2nd 2014

Kids is a print commissioned to raise money for a five-storey mural on the West Wing atrium of Oxford Children's Hospital at the John Radcliffe. 

Our first instinct is to try and find a connection between text and image but there is none. Four 'random' letters which happen to denote children are jammed between 4 random objects: a metronome, a bucket, a torch and an empty drawer.There's no hidden meaning. The artist selected shapes - letters and  objects  - until he found something which 'worked'.

He has described himself as a constructor rather than a painter or draughtsman. I owe a great debt to this artist. I have never forgotten  when I first saw his work An Oak Tree. It consists of a glass of water placed on a small glass shelf at above head height. Below are some questions and answers concluding that  "the actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of a glass of water...Just as it is imperceptible, it is also inconceivable". It is work which is “in the service of the mind,”3 as opposed to a purely “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye. (Marcel Duchamp's words).
Corkscrew, one of  6 etchings in Catalan Suite II, paper 45 x 45 cm, image 29.7 x 29.7 cm

 At the heart of Michael Craig Martin's work is a desire to document the world through images of contemporary life, seen here so beautifully in Corkscrew. 'I see myself as a chronicler of our times'. He points out that originally form followed function and things looked like what they did. The old-style telephone had a handle, with a part you spoke into and a part you listened to. This has given way to a mobile in a thousand different shapes which can tell the time and take a photograph and much more - but gives you no indication of its talents.

The exhibition has sets of outstanding prints Art and Design, where Craig Martin  references iconic 20th century artworks - Andy Warhol's soup can, Man Ray's smoothing iron with spikes and Magritte's pipe - men with a particular interest in re-defining art using humour and more than a touch of antagonism.

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