My Secret Life: Martin Creed, artist, 42

Interview,Charlotte Philby
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:03

My parents were ... smilers and Quakers. My mum was a physiotherapist, and my dad's a silversmith and blacksmith; they met at a peace camp in Germany after the war. My mum's German and moved to the UK to be with my dad.

The house I grew up in was ... I have one memory of the first house: my brother and I throwing a cat out of the first-floor window to see what would happen. The next was a bungalow in a village near Glasgow, next to the spot where the drunks would hang out.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a deep-sea diver.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would have not a bad back.

At night I dream of ... When I was younger there was one where I was going to cross the English Channel to get away, but a bird shat on my head which meant that I couldn't go; it was a terrible thing.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... A weird looking guy with a twisted face.

My favourite item of clothing ... is a short-sleeved zip-up jacket by Comme des Garçons. I can wear a short-sleeve shirt under it, which gives me great pleasure and amusement.

I wish I'd never worn ... When I was at art school I used to wear a black tie and a white shirt; I looked like a stupid lemon.

I drive ... an old Fiat Panda, which I bought when learning to drive two years ago, and I've got a Fiat Coupé as well. I feel a bit stupid for having two cars. I've got a Brompton bike too.

My house is ... messy, very messy.

My favourite work of art ... Whenever I've seen anything by Picasso in real life it has made me really stop and think "Wow, that's amazing", or "Oh God, what's that?". His work is always shockingly beautiful or strange, or something else that makes me pause.

My favourite building ... is one of the pyramids – either in Egypt or South America – or the Pantheon in Rome, which is the one with the hole in the middle where the rain comes in.

A book that changed me ... The writing of Ernest Hemingway affected me a lot; there is something about that simple way of writing without adjectives, where words drop like stones in the sentence. Reading Samuel Beckett has also been a big influence, as has the writing of the artist Frank Stella.

Movie heaven ... is any Steve Martin film.

The last album I bought ... might have been the most recent Muse album, or Glenn Gould playing Beethoven's 'Concertos'.

My secret crush ... is Robbie Williams.

My greatest regret ... I made this video at art school set in a bar. I divided the screen in half; everything on the left was supposed to be white and silver and female; on the right everything was gold, red and male. The colour of things was the theme of the video but I used a white cigarette on the wrong side, which meant I'd got it wrong within rules I had myself made; that still bothers me.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is Billy Connolly. If you're used to seeing clips of him on telly, you'll think of him as a hyper-energetic, shouting man, but live, there is a much quieter, less aggressive side to him which I find very moving.

The last time I cried ... was during Beethoven's 'Emperor Concerto' a year ago. I was always one for crying, but it seems I haven't been crying much lately. What's the point? The point is to do what makes you feel better.

My life in six words ... my life is not over yet.

A life in brief

Conceptual artist Martin Creed was born in Wakefield in 1968 and grew up near Glasgow. He graduated from London's Slade School of Art in 1990 and controversially won the Turner Prize in 2001 for Work No 227, the lights going on and off, which consisted of an empty room with the lights periodically switching on and off. Creed lives in London's Barbican and is one of the judges for the Music Foundation's New Music Award 2010. See

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