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Visual Art: Martin Creed, Things, The Common Guild, 21 Woodlands Terrace, Glasgow

THE opening of Martin Creed's new exhibition, Things, at the Common Guild in Glasgow was one of the busiest ever seen at the venue.

But it was also vaguely disconcerting. Inside the venue, Scotland's assembled art crowd were catching up, outside was one of the most glorious afternoons of the year so far. Yet however garrulous the company, the conversation lurched: stopping and starting as the ground floor gallery was momentarily and repeatedly plunged into darkness.

This was not Creed's most famous piece, Work No 127: The Lights Going On And Off – which earned the artist both the Turner Prize and tabloid opprobrium when shown at Tate Britain in 2001 – but a new piece in a similar vein, Work No 990: Curtains Opening And Closing. The gallery's striking view was dramatically truncated as a set of domestic curtains automatically opened and closed, as though an unseen hand – God maybe, or some kind of art poltergeist – had decided simply to put a stop to proceedings.

This is the kind of thing that drives Creed's critics insane. His work is guaranteed – although not, in fact, designed – to provoke ire amongst the "is it art?" brigade. For many, though, it is just a distinctive take on what has been a long-developed trend, the contention that art might not simply belong in the realm of the highfalutin and the luxurious, but might be crafted out of the stuff of everyday life.

Things is about ordinary stuff in reams. Quite literally in Work No 391: Sheets Of Paper, the stack of ordinary copy paper sitting in pristine splendour at the bottom of the gallery stairs. Or the famously self-explanatory Work No 121: A Crumpled Ball Of Paper In Every Room In A House.

Some nine years after that Turner win – famously Madonna handed him the prize in the kind of embarrassing display of grooviness that characterised her early London years – Creed is having a mini-year of homecoming in Scotland, where curiously his work is much talked about but has been little seen.

Born in Wakefield – his dad is the artist and metal worker John Creed – he grew up in Milton of Campsie and Lenzie, leaving Scotland to study at the Slade in London.

Already this year, his neon sign Everything Is Going To Be Alright has anointed the faade of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. He is shortly to enhance one of Edinburgh's most notable neglected spaces, the Scotsman Steps, which will be clad in marble in a project commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery and supported through the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund for Edinburgh Art Festival 2010.

Indeed, the summer feels like a real Creed moment, with a major Fruitmarket show of new and recent work and the confirmation this week that Ballet, the work he composed music for and choreographed with the classically trained dancers of Sadler's Wells, will show at the Traverse during the Festival.

So what of this show Things? Well, it serves as a brilliant introduction and mini-survey of Creed's work: an excellent catch-up that contextualises the work enough to get the hang of what he does, but plays with things lightly enough to feel fresh. The strongest works are those that have a slight oddness to them – a crumpled bit of paper is a crumpled bit of paper, however you play it – but Work No 263: A protrusion From A Wall, in which an odd white ball shape that emerges from a wall like some kind of alien presence, still has an allure some 16-odd years since early versions of it were first made. The same goes for Work No 99: An Intrusion And A Protrusion From A Wall, a play on convex and concave with highly polished silver and gold surfaces that turn a domestic-scale stair into something of Piranesian complexity.

It will be interesting to see if this show can persuade doubters. Even if you're sympathetic to his work, it can serve as an irritant as much as an inspiration. I loved the sculpture of comically sculptural succulent plants on the mantelpiece but even an hour in the building saw me driven mad by a doorstop concealed behind the gallery door to impede progress.

The longer measure, though, for the artist's work – he's 41 now and has gone from enfant terrible into that ominous art category of "mid-career" – is whether it can stand the test of time. There's always a limit in Creed's sculptural work: a point beyond which it can simply run out of resonance. And its practical poetry is often a one-liner. It may be for these reasons that he has long developed a more complex relationship with film, movement and music. He has always played in a band and used music as a facet of his work, and his created entertainments call on everything from music hall to minimalism.

Things, though, is the kind of show that does exactly what it says on the tin and serves as an excellent introduction to his work. The emphasis is domestic and on simple opposites. In and out, up and down, on and off. It's perhaps no coincidence that many of these are early works. Essentially they were made at home, for the home. And they feel very at home now that Creed has finally brought them back to the west of Scotland.

Until 3 April www.martincreed.com

&#149 This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, March 7, 2010

 
 
 

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