Arbitrary Colour and Objects?

Michael Craig-Martin is a principal figure of British conceptual art and one of the most influential art teachers in Britain. His recent works include, painting, printmaking, installations projections and drawing.

Michael Craig-Martin has been questioning the nature of art and representation for 50years. He analyses the relationship between objects and images, exploring human ability to imagine absent forms through symbols and pictures. A central concern of his is the tension between object, representation, and language.

Michael Craig-Martin- Untitled (For Art on a Postcard)

During the 90s Craig-Martin developed what has become the style you and I equate with his celebrated name, bold outlines defining flat areas of intensely vibrant colours. He applies this style to explore his fascination with ordinary, manufactured, ubiquitous, everyday objects, creating large scale, vibrantly coloured graphic images. He believes that everything special and important in life is accessible through the ordinary, what is right in front of you, the trouble is it’s hard to see. This is where his art comes into play, highlighting his revelation. Furthermore, the simplicity of these objects act as a vehicle for the projection of the viewer’s internal realm. 

Untitled (bulb)


The mass-produced objects depicted by Craig-Martin are simultaneously impersonal and personal, he states that we instil a sense of profound personal engagement to objects we see as ours, and thus they act as an access point to people.

Eye of the Storm
The simplicity of the ubiquitous objects acting as subject, is paralleled by a somewhat restrained, yet bold representative style. Craig- Martin’s intense minimalist images exemplify a certain simplicity and clarity, in addition to a love and fasciation for colour. He uses composition to explore spatial relationships by juxtaposing and layering colour. A fear of colour had existed in the 1960s, associated with empty formalism, banal self-expression, the decorative, the arbitrary, the indulgent, it represented what artists sought to avoid. 

Fortunately Craig-Martin courageously dismissed these connotations and began to investigate the properties and potentials of colour. His paintings aim to push every colour to its highest pitch and potentials. His outstanding understanding and execution of colour make his vibrant, bold and contrasting choices harmonious and appropriate, they appear far from arbitrary to me.


Art unavoidably divulges the artist’s personality and true expression, it is amazingly honest and revealing. Accordingly Michael Craig-Martin’s work can be said to be fully expressive of him as an individual.

About the writer
Tara is an Art Foundation and History of Art graduate born and bred in London. She has travelled the globe extensively, immersing herself in the vibrant arts and cultures the world has to offer, and hopes her next adventure will take her to India! She is currently teaching English as a foreign language whilst enjoying volunteering at Art on a Postcard, and she hopes to break into the art world!

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