How art can illuminate ads: the wonderful and wacky world of Martin Creed

Following a long and distinguished career as an award-winning creative director, Julian Hanford is now a practicing visual artist, working in different media with a bias towards photography. He currently has a solo exhibition, “Meh. And other contemporary cultural observations”, running at Apostrophe, 16 Brewer Street, London W1F 0SW, until 17 June 2014.

In the most recent issue of The Drum, Julian Hanford, a man whose creative career has comfortably straddled both advertising and fine art, delves into the wonderful and often wacky world of Martin Creed, comparing what the Turner Prize-winning artist does with his art to what advertising creatives do with theirs. Below we bring you a taste of Hanford’s review, while subscribers can enjoy it in its entirety when the mag hits desks later this week.

What the art world sniffs at, when anyone mentions the communication arts, is that 'industrial' art work is created from a provided brief and for a commercial end. The belief is that fine artists work to their own briefs, theoretically without thought or care for how the audience is going to react to their musings.

The fact is that the lines are now so blurred that these traditional views are creaking at the seams. Traditionally, advertising was simply a task of filling units of media space with a clever idea. The multi-touchpoint digital world has changed the game for creative teams as much as the rise of photography did with painting in the last century. So we are now in a space where literally anything goes, and creative experimentation with these new channels is the only sensible way forward. We are all artists now.

It is worth considering, therefore – freed of the restrictions of briefs and commercial imperatives – how an artist like Creed approaches what he does.

To start with, Creed knows no restrictions on the medium he uses. His work includes painting, sculpture, installation, film, photography architecture, music... and broccoli. In fact anything that can get his message across in a thought-provoking way. The freedom that this way of thinking affects his work provides him with an endless stream of new creative possibilities.

Take, for instance, what is arguably a piece of cross-over work – originally conceived as a commission for a record sleeve design, his Work No. 1000 is literally a thousand individual prints made by block-printing sliced broccoli, in different colours. Although made from a repetitive process, every one is unique. The lesson here is that we need to find ways to truly personalise our message to our audience in charming and disarming ways, even though we are saying the same thing.Then there is Work No. 1092 (Creed loves to number his work) 'Mothers' – a huge neon sign with letters two and a half metres high, that spins around at various speeds, dangerously out of control. There's real emotion in this piece, and standing underneath it – which feels really intimidating – makes us re-experience something of the way we sometimes felt as small children. Martin Creed’s retrospective ‘What's The Point Of It?’ at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, has been extended due to popular demand and will now run until 5 May.You can buy the latest edition of The Drum magazine in The Drum Store.