How would an artist represent the modern world with as few lines and colours as possible? How would a writer describe a person with as few words as possible? How would an architect create the perfect building where every line and every material contributed to the design? “Less is More” was famously used by the architect Mies van der Rohe in 1947, but in fact was used in a Robert Browning poem in 1855 and has been adopted as a title for several albums and songs, by Marillon, Ryan Leslie, Jess Stone and Relient K.
Wandering through the parkland of Kensington Gardens from the rich interiors of Kensington Palace, it is a shock to find in the landscape, created with as few lines of metal as possible, a large purple sculpture of a lightbulb announcing the exhibition inside the Serpentine Gallery by Michael Craig-Martin.
Inside, walls are painted with his unique range of colours and are covered with graphics and paintings that strip down the modern world to a few lines and blocks of colour which, in doing so, create their own aesthetic. Everyday items like a computer mouse, a light switch, a mobile phone and a set of scales become large-scale works of art. There is a underlying theme of digital technologies which relates to Simon Denny’s installation in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.
Perhaps unintentionally, Craig-Martin highlights how boring many of these everyday items are. Why do light switches, computer mice and other objects have to be so utilitarian and so boringly white? Could an enterprising manufacturer work with Craig-Martin to add colour and art to these everyday objects?