Michael Craig-Martin at the Serpentine


Fresh from his fantastic curatorial success of hanging the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, Michael Craig-Martin has been given the original Serpentine Gallery for his first public institution exhibition in more than a quarter of a century. Like the vibrant shock of seeing pink walls at Burlington House, the old Hyde Park tea room has also been given a few licks of paint, as well as wallpaper conceived especially for this exhibition and making patterns of the artist’s familiar linear style. 

That he has been using this style for thirty years is phenomenal; his magnum book Drawing launched at the London Original Print Fair in the Spring showed just what can be achieved over such a lengthy period — it comprises hundreds and hundreds of his clean, clear, analytical, diagrammatic images spanning all manner of our quotidian needs, distractions and hobbies. The fact that such a vast collection of flat three dimensional images has amassed was to lead to the title and selection for this show. 

The theme of the exhibition is change, it concerns the increasing acceleration of our modern world; it holds up to our eyes items we cherished or coveted just a few years ago and where once they may have just been observation, they now carry a weight of nostalgia, or demonstrate impermanence, or at the very least clarify that they really weren’t all that important to begin with. We live by the adage that everything changes and these few rooms unapologetically support this stance.

Phones and laptops evolve quicker than hotel safes and fire alarms but looking at these pop art coloured illustrations you are left with no doubt they too will falter, change and their former selves will look every bit as old fashioned as a Nokia 3310 does next to the blank represented screen of an iPhone 6s. 

Along with the more obvious motifs of recent years the show looks back to a few more simple canvases as well as the 'jumble sale' chaos of the layered work - still unflinchingly flat. There are two old wall works, originally drawn out by hand now as a sign of the times reproduced through a computer; many of those pictured here in profile, detail or with rainbow keys.

This is a timely show, not just because the artist is due some greater recognition but because we need to get a handle on the temporary nature of our consumerist present. If we continue to consume at the rate we are doing that is one thing, but to confuse and mistake deeper scenarios and more human matters in such a throw away fashion, we are more doomed than one of the artist’s most ancient works, a black and white TV.


until 14th February