關於創意 | On being creative
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 6:03pm on 21st April 2019
1. Michael Craig-Martin, Bright Idea (2017) (© Michael Craig-Martin. 圖片提供: 藝術家、高古軒及香港半島酒店，圖片: Simon J Nicol)
2. Michael Craig-Martin的自傳式文集 On Being an Artist，倫敦 Art Books Publishing出版，2015年
1. Michael Craig-Martin, Bright Idea (2017) (© Michael Craig-Martin. Courtesy the artist, Gagosian and The Peninsula Hong Kong. 圖片: Simon J Nicol)
2. Book cover of On Being an Artist by Michael Craig-Martin, Art Books Publishing, London, 2015
(Please scroll down for English version)
Michael Craig-Martin大部份時間都在美國成長和學習，最後於1960年代在耶魯大學藝術學院修讀美術畢業，同代人包括Frank Stella等。Craig-Martin的愛爾蘭藉父親在華盛頓哥倫比亞特區任農業經濟學家，但家人一直以都柏林和倫敦為家。年輕的Craig-Martin是當時少有的美術系畢業生，他來自歐洲但卻在美國接受教育，熟悉美國極富影響力的藝壇，也認識不少當時的傑出藝術家。然而，由於在美國找工作並不容易，他在25歲時決定離開美國遷居英國，展開教學生涯。
1966年時，紐約是國際藝術世界的中心，在那時離開紐約似乎是瘋狂的決定。但正如Craig-Martin在其自傳式文集《On Being an Artist》（作為藝術家，2015年）一書中解釋，這個決定讓他在一個將於未來五十年經歷完整、獨特革新的國家，特別是在倫敦這個城市當藝術家。他認為紐約市基本與1960年代無異，但倫敦卻是現時世界上最國際化、最富活力的城市。幸好該書在英國脫歐公投前已發行，這些主張還未需要認證！
On being creative
by John Batten
Michael Craig-Martin grew-up and studied most of his life in the USA, eventually graduating in fine art from the Yale School of Art in the early 1960s, alongside such contemporaries as Frank Stella. Craig-Martin’s Irish father worked as an agricultural economist in Washington DC, but home for the family was always seen as Dublin and London. The younger Craig-Martin was a rare fine art graduate: European, but American educated and familiar with New York’s influential art scene, knowing many of the time’s pre-eminent artists. He, however, decided to leave the USA aged 25 years old and live in the United Kingdom to begin a teaching career as work opportunities were few in the USA.
Removing himself from New York, at the time the centre of the international art world, in 1966 was a decision that seemed crazy, but as Craig-Martin explains in his autobiographical book of advice to artists, On Being an Artist (2015), it was a decision that allowed him to be an artist in a country, and particularly a city, London, that was to undergo a complete, and unique, makeover over the next fifty years. He argues that New York is essentially the same city it was in the 1960s, whereas London is now the most cosmopolitan, dynamic city in the world. Luckily published just before the Brexit referendum, the book did not need to qualify such assertions!
Craig-Martin is now a senior, successful British conceptual artist, particularly well-known for his pared-back minimal graphic work, drawings, and sculpture, often of everyday objects. He has rarely exhibited in Hong Kong, but in 2017 he did show a 4metre high yellow tubular stainless-steel outline sculpture (of a lightbulb), Bright Idea, prominently exhibited outside Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel.
This is a particularly timely book, as the contemporary art market, with its sales and prices and personalities and hype, rather than ideas, issues, and aesthetics, increasingly dominate mainstream discussion about art and artists. The role of art fairs and marketing and PR people and Instagram exposure is, as Craig-Martin acknowledges, part of the reality of being a successful artist. But, the integrity of the artist and their work must be paramount – and integrity starts with an artist defending their work.
Despite having a British focus, Craig-Martin’s own cross-Atlantic, his American-British experiences, mirrors many professionals and creative-types, including Hong Kong and mainland designers, architects and artists, who now readily study, work and live all around the world. The book has universal appeal with snippets of practical advice, amusing anecdotes, approaches to teaching and learning. He emphasizes the need for self-discipline, tempered by an openness of mind; and, he reminds us of the obvious: creativity is also work!
After a lifetime of making art, and considerable time teaching, Craig-Martin has considered opinions about the creative world. For example, in an argument that also supports his own artwork, he eloquently discusses the important role that Pop, Minimalism and Conceptualism have played since the mid-1960s, after the domination (often spearheaded by theory-based art critics) of Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s: “Minimalism seeks the meaning of art in the immediate and personal experience of the viewer in the presence of a specific work. There is no reference to another previous experience (no representation), no implication of a higher level of experience (no metaphysics), no promise of a deeper intellectual experience (no metaphor)….Minimalism reorders values. It locates profound experience in ordinary experience.”
The truth of this statement can be seen in the work of many international artists, and in aspects of today’s industrial design, residential architecture, interior design, home decoration and public street decoration. But, in striving for creative authenticity, Craig-Martin is very aware that when seeking the “new”, he was often “shocked to find how much of what was new to me had been around for so long.”
Creativity’s history is long, complex and multicultural – and for any ‘stuck’ artist, designer, architect, creative person or, indeed, anyone struggling with the world and its innovations (and lack of), then simply seeking out the past will give inspiration and a new angle for their own creativity – and better living.
Originally published in Ming Pao Weekly on 27 April 2019. Translation by Aulina Chan.