The Times profiles Michael Craig-Martin on the occasion of the opening of a large public art project in a Docklands Light Railway station. At 67, Craig-Martin is on stride:
At Goldsmiths College in the late 1980s Craig-Martin taught and counselled Hirst and a clutch of other students who would become the stars of Brit Art. But they weren’t influenced only by his avuncular advice. Craig-Martin’s An Oak Tree, consisting of a glass of water standing on a shelf next to a text claiming it is such a tree, has been described by Hirst as “the greatest piece of conceptual sculpture”.
Now Craig-Martin, who no longer teaches, is disgorging work at a furious rate and later this month will reveal the results of his first foray into ceramics, a two-storey mural in a stairwell at the new Docklands Light Railway station at Woolwich Arsenal. Street Life features giant images of everyday objects such as keys, a book, a drink can, in the artist’s trademark vivid colours. [ . . . ]
For decades he has been working with these objects and these colours. He keeps a database of 200 or so everyday objects that he has drawn. Sometimes he adds a new drawing, but this is his essential artistic “vocabulary” that he deploys for many of his pieces. “We construct our whole lives out of a very, very small vocabulary and I think what I am doing is quite similar. I am taking these images and I play with them and each time I make another sentence, a new phrase, but the words are the same.”
Craig-Martin is even better on what influence the generation of artists who came to prominence under his guidance:
I had this wonderful thing happen: after all these years of teaching I had a period in which a great many of the students I had taught had quite remarkable success. If you have been teaching, what greater reward can there be?”He was struck that having so many talents at one time was unusual. “Partly through my own efforts they connected with each other and they became curious and interested in each other’s work and they also became jealous of each other in the most healthy, ruthlessly ambitious way.”
The God of Small and Ordinary Things (The Times of London)