Michael Craig-Martin presented a selection of new work made specifically for this exhibition. Known for his sweeping, brightly coloured canvases that depict a repertoire of everyday objects, his art is one of maximum economy and maximum impact. Central to his work is the act of drawing and an investigation of line, space and form. Transcribing these images onto the painting’s surface using a distinctive black tape, the painted objects flicker between foreground and background, between line and image.
The everyday objects, invariably have a practical use; a drawer that opens, a chair to be sat on or a shoe awaiting its owner’s foot. All suggest a form of human interaction which is forever absent.
In an intriguing new departure, Craig-Martin showed works based on two major paintings in Western art history – Piero della Francesca’s The Flagellation (1452) and Georges Seurat’s The Bathers at Asnières (1884). Here he deconstructed and redrew them in order to create new paintings, replacing the original colour with his familiar vivid palette.
A striking new work that took the form of specially printed black and white wallpaper was also shown. This pull towards the domestic was echoed in the selection of images that erupted across the wall surface, such as chairs, light bulbs, and shoes. Colour was introduced through the placement of eleven smaller canvases that mapped the same motif as the wallpaper, and transformed the plane of the wall into a three-dimensional relief.
The exterior commission, Craig-Martin’s most ambitious project to date, comprised the complete transformation of the Gallery building itself into a painted artwork and fittingly marked MK Gallery’s 5th anniversary. MK Gallery was enveloped in the artist’s distinctive magenta hue, in the same make of acrylic paint that he uses daily in his studio. This accounts for the intense pigmentation achieved on the building exterior. For the artist, the selected magenta is an ‘artificial’ colour, ‘without obvious placement, and of a richness and vibrancy that other colours do not have’.
On the main entrance façade Craig-Martin painted an immense empty turquoise drawer. For him the commission suggested a logical yet daring progression from painted canvas, to wall mural, to a 3-D artwork that visitors can literally enter and exit. It was his latest in a series of works (including the Laban Dance Centre and ‘The Fan’ at Regents Place in London) in which he has sought to integrate art and architecture.