Published on February 18, 2014 | by Rosie Atkin


Exhibition review: What’s the point of it?


Woman looks at paintings at the Martin Creed exhibition

Creed’s exhibit uses videos, installations, and paintings combined with neon colours. [Linda Nylind]

The Hayward Gallery has been taken over by artist Martin Creed and his collection of diverse work, What’s the point of it?– an assortment of paintings, installations, videos, and plenty of gigantic neon signage.

Creed’s playful characteristics are present throughout the exhibition. [Linda Nylind]

The atmosphere upon arrival is vibrant, with an official greeting appearing in the form of 39 clacking metronomes, moving at disjointed and erratic speeds. Overhead, a titanic neon sign reading Mothers rotates, bright and obvious – just how Creed likes it.

And it is this deliberate simplicity that forms the recurring theme throughout his work. At first glance, the exhibition reflects a prolific career with stand-alone pieces. But peer closer, and through themes of repetition and control, the collection forms an individual body in its own right.

Moving into the second room, Creed’s playful characteristic is immediate. With every nook and cranny being filled, the walls are alive with primary school colours. Pen on Paper is exactly that – a rainbow coloured felt-tip doodle that escalated. Door Opening and Closing is another example of this artist’s preference for the obvious.


The soundtrack to the gallery is the eerie trickling of piano scales, played at a painfully slow speed. Elsewhere, the sound of endless raspberry’s being blown invade the space as you attempt to concentrate on calm video installations. Creed seems content to constantly poke, prod and piss off his audience, annoyingly evident in his 2001 Turner Prize winning installation, Work 227: Lights Going On and Off. Yes, you guessed it; this piece is the most infuriating repetition, 30 seconds of light on, then 30 seconds off.

As if stress levels weren’t already high, upstairs features the alarming slamming of a white piano dissecting itself like a flower, only to collapse back into place. A Protrusion Coming Out of the Wall sees lovely, touchable spheres growing from the white wall; but you can only look, not touch.

Creed tests our patience, placing exciting tactile objects before the audience, whilst restricting them from physically getting involved. We cannot control this exhibition, and that is what makes it such an annoying success.


As a consolation prize, Creed invites you to wade through a pit of 7,000 white balloons. Half the Air in a Given Space is simultaneously playful and frustrating; but adults and children can indulge in the initial simplicity of this installation.

Creed has been known for his exploration into the theme of control and perhaps the point of it all is that we can’t control everything; no, you cannot touch that tantalising collection of sports balls. Neither can you sit on that comfy battered sofa. But you are welcome to watch a video of subjects dispelling their bowels from both ends on a clean white floor.

Does Creed’s work deliberately agitate us so that we scratch our heads to find a deeper meaning that is simply in front of us? He really is such a tease.




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