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Out of the ordinary

Published 3 March 2014

Michael Craig-Martin RA is installing the commonplace in a far from everyday setting, writes Richard Cork.

  • From the Spring 2014 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    Michael Craig-Martin RA is exhibiting his large-scale steel sculptures in the spectacular grounds at Chatsworth House. The 12 works represent, as their titles suggest, the commonplace objects – such as a hammer or a wheelbarrow – that fascinate the artist.

    ‘I’m trying to keep them within half a mile of the house,’ Craig-Martin says. Gate (white), of 2011, will stand outside the Orangery. Pitchfork (pink), by contrast, is installed in the rose garden, while three of his Umbrella sculptures can be found along the canal pond.

  • Michael Craig-Martin RA, Gate (white)

    Michael Craig-Martin RA, Gate (white), 2011.

    © Michael Craig-Martin. Courtesy Roche Court and Gagosian Gallery.

  • Visitors to the Royal Academy’s Keeper’s House have been enjoying his dramatic Garden Fork (red) in its outdoor setting. But Craig-Martin is equally active as a painter, and insists that the sculptures at Chatsworth ‘are flat – they’re sculptures of line drawings, and the illusionism is two-dimensional. It’s a pictorial illusion rather than a sculptural illusion. Even the simplest things turn out to be more complex than one can imagine.’

    The artist began making this type of steel sculpture in the 1980s, but the Chatsworth works are recent. Six of them have never been shown before, and they exemplify his insistence on rigorous formal economy.

    Why everyday objects? ‘I try to strip away, but not in a cartoon-like or abbreviated way’, he says. ‘I’m using things with an implicit human presence. Their familiarity encourages people to bring their own stories to them.’

    Michael Craig-Martin at Chatsworth is at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire from 16 March – 29 June 2014
    Objects of Our Time and Wish List is at Alan Cristea Gallery from 28 March – 2 May 2014