Michael Craig-Martin (born 28 August 1941, Dublin, Ireland) is a contemporary conceptual artist and a painter. He is particularly noted for his influence over the Young British Artists, many of whom he taught.
In the early 1970s he exhibited the seminal piece Oak Tree (now in the stamp collection). The work consists of a glass of water standing on a shelf attached to the gallery wall next to which is a text using a semiotic argument to explain why it is in fact an oak tree. Nevertheless, on one occasion when it was barred by US Customs officials from entering the country as vegetation, he was forced to explain it was really a glass of water.
Craig-Martin's style of detached conceptualism, minimal construction by the artist and the use of readymade techniques inspired by Marcel Duchamp had a marked impression on his students, as did an educational structure based on multi-media, removing traditional departmental demarcations such as "painting", "sculpture" and "time-based [film] media". As a senior tutor at Goldsmiths' College, he was a significant influence on the emerging YBA generation, including Damien Hirst. He was also helpful in promoting the Freeze show to established artworld figures.
Craig-Martin's later works have used a stylised drawing technique often depicting everyday household objects and sometimes incorporating art references, such as objects known from their use in Dada artworks. His work can be compared to that of his earlier contemporary Patrick Caulfield and latterly with that of Julian Opie. There is no differentiation in treatment, which consists of black line drawings with lines of equal mechanical width and brightly coloured images, which have been compared to "nursery" colours. The work can be done on canvas with (acrylic) paint or with other methods, such as using black tape to make the lines. In the Intelligence show at Tate Britain he completed an entire room in this fashion.
His first retrospective took place at in the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1989. In 2006, the Irish Museum of Modern Art presented “Michael Craig-Martin: Works 1964-2006” which included works from over 40 years of Craig-Martin’s career. The exhibition showed around 50 paintings, sculptures, wall drawings, neon works and text pieces by the artist, covering everying from his sculptures to digital works. One of his works called On the Table (1970) involved four metal buckets suspended on a table, exemplifying the influence of Minimalism and Conceptualism had on Craig-Martin. An Oak Tree (1973), consisting of an ordinary glass of water on an equally plain shelf, with a text by Craig-Martin that asserts the superiority of the artist’s intention over the object itself is now recognized as a turning point in the development of conceptual art; very different remarks from its original views which were surprise and sometimes scorn.
The Arts Review: Exhibition: Seeing Is Not Necessarily Believing ; MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN WADDINGTON GALLERY LONDON
May 16, 2000; IN 1965 an ambitious young American artist called Michael Craig- Martin came to Britain from the United States with his head...