Creed was born in 1968 in Wakefield, in the north of England, his family relocating to Glasgow, Scotland when he was three years old. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London from 1986 - 90, then lived and worked in London from 1990 - 2001, during which time he also extended his practice into musical composition with his group project OWADA. Creed moved to Alicudi, Italy in 2001 and now lives and works in both London and Alicudi. Creed was the Turner Prize winner at Tate Britain in 2001.
Martin Creed's work is concerned with the tension between something and nothing, with what exactly constitutes an artwork, and the value of that work in relation to the world around it. A work from 1996 entitled the whole world + the work = the whole world eloquently conveys this inquiry; the work existing as a formula which negates its very existence and integration into the world around it through the simple action of reading and comprehension. The piece is presented either as neon signage, or perhaps as a simple printed text on an A4 sheet of paper, the form depending on the context the artist feels suits best at the time of exhibiting. Work #115 (1995) is subtitled 'a doorstop fixed to a floor to let a door open only 30 degrees', which is again, exactly what the viewer encounters on entering the gallery. Through these subtle interventions, Creed alters our experience of the gallery to startling effect; the annoyance of having to squeeze through a semi-opening gallery door, the excitement of being engulfed in hundreds of inflated white balloons Work #200 (1998); 'half the air in a given space' or the strangely moving metaphor for human emotion in Work #127 (1995); 'the lights going on and off'.
Everything Creed makes is assigned a work number and catalogued; from interventional objects to writing, songs and interviews. The number system is often assigned in a non-linear fashion and does not necessarily relate to the date a piece was created, but a number, once assigned, is never used again. Work #78 (1993), is described; 'as many 2.5cm squares as are necessary cut from 2.5cm Elastoplast tape and piled up, adhesive sides down, to form a 2.5cm cubic stack'. Of this work, Creed has said; "If anything, this work began as an attempt to make something, if not nothing. If that, the problem was to attempt to establish, amongst other things, what material something could be, what shape something could be, what size something could be, how something could be constructed, how something could be situated, how something could be attached, how something could be positioned, how something could be displayed, how something could be portable, how something could be packaged, how something could be stored, how something could be certified, how something could be presented, how something could be for sale, what price something could be, and how many of something could there be, or should be, if any, if at all".
Creed has exhibited widely, with recent solo exhibitions including Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, 2010; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Tate Britain, London and Hiroshima City Museum of contemporary Art, Japan, 2009; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 2008; Boston Centre for the Arts, Boston USA and Hauser and Wirth, London, 2007. His recent group exhibitions include Compass in Hand: Selections from the Judith Rothschild Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, New York 2010; Classified: Contemporary Art at Tate Britain, Tate Britain, London, London Calling, The Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul and Hanjiyun Contemporary Space, Beijing, 2009.
Made in Britain Contemporary Art from the British Council Collection 1980-2010,China Federation of Literary and Art Circles Publishing Corporation 2010. ISBN 978-7-5059-7014-4.