Michael Craig-Martin is a contemporary conceptual artist and painter. He is noted for his influence over the Young British Artists, many of whom he taught, and for his conceptual artwork, An Oak Tree.
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".
In 1974,he exhibited the seminal piece An Oak Tree. 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 Australian Customs officials from entering the country as vegetation, he was forced to explain it was really a glass of water. The work was bought by the National Gallery of Australia in 1977; however, the Tate gallery has an artist's copy.
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. 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.
Craig-Martin has been a trustee of the Tate Gallery and is a trustee of the National Art Collections Fund.
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