23 September - 5 November 2022

Michael Craig-Martin

Past Present
This Autumn Cristea Roberts Gallery presents an exhibition of new work by Michael Craig-Martin, which sees the artist turn his attention to art from the past.

Past Present features new prints by Michael Craig-Martin (b. 1941), which pay homage to some of his favourite artists and artworks, including paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Piero della Francesca, Georges Seurat, Caravaggio and Diego Velázquez. Craig-Martin reinterprets their imagery for the twenty-first century, deconstructing selected paintings, rebuilding and rendering them in his own distinctive style.

Craig-Martin has selected famous paintings from Western art history that sit firmly in our psyche. For each print he employs simple uninflected lines and a palette of intense colours to reinterpret his selection of subjects. This unique visual language presents each masterpiece afresh.

For The Ambassadors, painted by Hans Holbein the Younger (1533), our eyes are drawn to the half-obscured crucifix in the top left corner and to the shelves displaying objects of the sciences and the arts; a terrestrial globe, a celestial globe, a quadrant, a polyhedral sundial, various books and rolled documents, and a lute. Although the subjects of works from this period concentrated primarily on portraiture or religion, artists also depicted recognisable aspects from their own world and that of the viewer.

Craig-Martin selected Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503) for its uniquely iconic status. He presents the image anew, providing the viewer an opportunity to discover details they may not have seen before, such as the low wall behind the Mona Lisa which suggests that she is sitting on a balcony or terrace, and a small section of road behind her that dissolves into the landscape. In three different prints, Craig-Martin replaces the original colours with his familiar palette.

For Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas (1656), which has also been referenced by artists including Picasso and Richard Hamilton, Craig-Martin creates a simplified version, which omits some of the figures. He also offers us three versions of a painting that has always fascinated him; Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884).

Further works include a depiction of Piero della Francesca’s highly complex painting The Flagellation of Christ (1468-70), which Craig-Martin presents in the same size as the original; three alternative representations of Caravaggio’s Bacchus (1596); and four different renderings of the Dutch seventeenth-century church interior, Sint-Odulphuskerk in Assendelft (1649), by Pieter Saenredam, in which Craig-Martin has removed the scattering of tiny figures that are seen in the original, presenting an almost modernist interior.

Past Present is Craig-Martin’s homage to these artists.

If you would like to receive a complete list of works in the exhibition please contact [email protected]

“Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors is a an extraordinary painting for many reasons. A striking double portrait, it also depicts two shelves of meticulously detailed objects of science and the arts. These include a terrestrial globe, a celestial globe, a quadrant, a polyhedral sundial, various books and rolled documents, and a lute. My passionate interest in this painting is not difficult to understand.”

Michael Craig-Martin on Hans Holbein the Younger's The Ambassadors, 1533

“No painting has meant more to me personally and as an artist. It is a painting of heroic modesty, a tribute to ordi­nary people, ordinary life, but presented at the scale and with the dignity of a great history painting.”

Michael Craig-Martin on Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, 1884

"Pieter Saenredam’s paintings of the austere ‘white’ interiors of Dutch seventeenth-century church interiors seem presciently minimal to contemporary eyes. His vision was extraordinarily original. This is a painting without a foreground. The ‘background’ has assumed the function of the foreground, and constitutes both its subject and its content."
Michael Craig-Martin on Pieter Saenredam's Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk in Assendelft, 1649
If you would like to receive a complete list of works in the exhibition please contact [email protected]

Past Present will also feature new and recent prints by the artist, which take as their subject matter everyday objects such as trainers, a laptop, a watch, musical instruments, as well as flowers. The latter topic is a new focus for the artist, the result of national lockdowns beginning two years ago, when Craig-Martin’s visual world became that of the local supermarket.

For Domesticated Flowers, 2021, lilies, tulips and gerberas which have been domesticated and bred to specification, sit alongside mass-produced objects such as the iPhone. Three new prints depicting musical instruments, grouped together according to genre; classic, jazz and rock. Craig-Martin renders these in his own distinctive style.

If you would like to receive a complete list of works in the exhibition please contact [email protected]



Michael Craig-Martin in Conversation with Nicholas Cullinan

Michael Craig-Martin discusses his solo exhibition Past Present at Cristea Roberts Gallery with Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

Making a Mark with Michael Craig-Martin

Michael Craig-Martin one of the best-known artists of his generation, on his iconic work, instantly recognisable the world over.

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