Martin Creed is an artist who has built a reputation for being absurd; in interviews, he talks with the pace of a whippet while twitching his legs and fidgeting his fingers. The speed and direction of his conversations suggest his brain is similarly affected.
His art, of course, reflects this jittery, discombobulated disposition. Each work seems to come from a place of surprise, intrigue, and is plied with humour and irony.
It comes as little surprise then that the British artist’s latest show takes its jump off from something we all know and love – but don’t expect to see in a gallery; the humble slice of toast.
In London’s Hauser & Wirth gallery, the Scotsman has filled the single white cube room with a visual symposium of brand new sculptures, drawings, paintings, tapestry, video, live action and musical works of art. It all seems rather like the man never rests?
One alluring video features sequences of people – including the model Lily Cole – opening their mouths to reveal their partly masticated meals. Elsewhere, his eponymous Work No 3071, Peanut Butter on Toast looks at first like the unassuming snack we all dined on as children. A closer inspection of the work and its label however, reveal the bread is made of bronze, and the peanut butter, from gold.
With Creed it is often hard to know where the man starts and the art stops. He has for instance be known to balance several hats on his head and wear multiple ties around his neck, underneath his paint splattered suits. At the show’s opening, he had instructed art handlers to regularly dim the lights, enter the room and remove works of art in a trolley. Part of the stunt? Of course. And it works, filling the room with an exciting energy.
Equally as hilarious are the singers who pop up throughout the show, in choirs belting out repetitions of ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not doing what I want to do, I’m not doing what I want to do’ in rounds, and dressed in more of Creed’s numbered creations.
One vocal rendition, by the virtuoso vocalist Linda Hirst sees her singing while laying face down on the floor between concrete books, accompanied by dancing socks. Get it? No, we don’t either, but its hard not to love it.
Other works that lead the audience to search for clues and meanings are a sculpture of Creed’s pet Chihuahua Jimmy, placed high up on a shelf, and scribbled self-portraits – often accompanied by words such as ‘jealousy’ and ‘help’
Toast is as brilliantly zany as you could expect from an artist like Creed, offering an heart-warmingly playful insight to his take on the human condition. We thoroughly recommend checking it out – it’s bound to put a smile on even the hardiest of January faces.
Words by Toby Mellors
Martin Creed, Toast, at Hauser and Wirth, London, until 9 February 2019