Zaha Hadid by Michael Craig-Martin

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    Dame Zaha Hadid,    by Michael Craig-Martin,    2008,    NPG 6840,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Architect Zaha Hadid — ‘queen of the curve’.
Dame Zaha Hadid
by Michael Craig-Martin
wall mounted LCD screen with integrated software, 2008
49 1/2 in. x 29 1/2 in. (1257 mm x 749 mm) overall
NPG 6840
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Zaha Hadid (1950–2016) was an Iraqi-British architect. She is known for her bold building designs which can be seen all over the world. She has been called ‘queen of the curve’ for her use of swooping lines and structures. The London Aquatics Centre (built for the 2012 Olympic Games), the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, USA, and the Guangzhou Opera House in China are among her most famous projects.  

Michael Craig-Martin (born 1941) emerged as one of the first British conceptual artists and has become an influential teacher. He is known particularly for his vibrant and playful artwork.

He made this work to be viewed on a digital screen. The colours slowly change to create different colour combinations so that it appears different each time you look at it.

Analysing the portrait

  • View larger image
    Dame Zaha Hadid,    by Michael Craig-Martin,    2008,    NPG 6840,    © National Portrait Gallery, London
Dame Zaha Hadid, by Michael Craig-Martin, 2008

Look carefully at the portrait. Take your time – look at it for at least a minute. What can you see?

    • The mood of the portrait with its bright colours is playful and celebratory.
    • The unrealistic nature of the colours, and their flat shapes with drawn outlines makes it look a little like a cartoon.
    • The unexpected colour combinations make the portrait seem experimental, as if the artist is exploring what happens when different colours are placed together.
    • It is a digital portrait, presented on a screen. When you view the portrait in the Gallery, the colours slowly change to create different colour combinations. This adds an element of surprise to the portrait as it appears differently each time you look at it.
    • Craig-Martin made this artwork on a computer using Illustration software A type of software that enables the user to design and illustrate on a digital interface. . It is shown on a live LCD monitor that hangs on a wall like a painting.
    • He has used graphic outlines and bright, flat colours to show the Sitter The person in a portrait. , Zaha Hadid. The line drawing stays the same, but the colours randomly change. These changes happen at a slow pace. You only notice them when looking at the portrait for a long time. No two colour combinations are the same.
    • Michael Craig-Martin is known for being playful in his artwork.
    • He is also known for using strong, graphic outlines and vivid colours. He has said: ‘I have a rigorous palette of very intense colour. You must maintain a certain level of intensity in order for colours to sit comfortably with each other, which I place intuitively’.
    • Hadid's projects build on many years of experimentation with cutting-edge technologies.
    • It seems appropriate that her portrait should be made in this unconventional way, using technology to experiment with how her likeness can be represented through different colours.
    • Hadid is looking straight at us, the viewer. 
    • Her eyebrows are slightly raised, and she appears to be holding our gaze in a direct and active way.
    • Overall, her expression appears quite serious and confident.
    • Hadid looks casually but stylishly dressed. She is shown with flowing, shoulder-length hair. Her plain jacket is open, revealing the simple top that she is wearing underneath. She doesn’t appear to be wearing any jewellery.
    • Hadid’s jacket is by Issey Miyake, a Japanese designer who has focused on being innovative with technology. For example, he developed new techniques for folding fabric into origami-like patterns. Perhaps this reflects Hadid’s own interest in experimenting with technology for the buildings she designed.
    • The simple lines and bright, bold colours might remind you of advertising images. These are designed to have an impact on the people looking at them and be quickly and easily understood. Advertising influenced Pop art A movement that emerged in America and Britain in the 1950s that challenged artistic traditions by using imagery from popular consumer culture to create new artworks. such as Andy Warhol A US artist who was a leading figure in the Pop art movement in the 1960s. in the 1960s.
    • The simplified style and unlikely colours of Craig-Martin’s portrait of Hadid, may have been inspired by the colourful Pop art A movement that emerged in America and Britain in the 1950s that challenged artistic traditions by using imagery from popular consumer culture to create new artworks. portraits that Andy Warhol made of different celebrities. Craig-Martin met Warhol in New York when he lived there in the 1960s.
    • As a child Craig-Martin went to a Roman Catholic school, where students were encouraged to look at religious images in Illuminated panels Religious images painted on wooden boards, used as a visual reference for worship dating back to the Byzantine Empire. and stained-glass windows. Stained-glass is made using outlines of black lead and panels of coloured glass. This may have been an early influence on Craig-Martin’s art.
As a woman in architecture, you’re always an outsider. It’s okay, I like being on the edge.
Zaha Hadid, 2015

Who was Zaha Hadid?

  • Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq.
  • By the age of eleven, she had decided to become an architect. She said that she was influenced by the buildings her father showed her while travelling as a child with her family.
  • She began her own architecture practice in London in 1980. 
  • She went on to win several prestigious prizes for her work, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the Royal Institute of British Architects Royal Gold Medal.
  • Hadid was the first woman to be recognised as one of the very biggest names in architecture, an area that had always been dominated by men. 
  • She introduced exciting new ways of creating spaces and structures, wanting them to connect with the environment around them.
  • Hadid died in 2016. She is remembered for pushing boundaries with her inventive designs.

Who is Michael Craig-Martin?

  • Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in Ireland. He grew up and studied Art in the USA. He moved to London in 1966, where he has lived ever since.
  • His work is influenced by Conceptual art Art where the idea which the work of art represents is considered to be the most important thing about it. and Minimalism A style of art or design that uses very simple ideas or a very small number of simple elements. .
  • His early conceptual work used mixed media, including household objects. His best-known early work is An Oak Tree (1973) which explores ideas of faith and belief, which Craig-Martin says are central to art.
  • Today, Craig-Martin is known for his playful and varied style. His more recent and current work includes paintings, drawings and sculptures of everyday objects, and computer portraits. The materials he uses, along with his use of flat colour, graphic outline and composition make his work distinctive.
  • As Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in London, Craig-Martin was a significant influence on a younger generation of artists including Julian Opie, Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. These artists became known as the YBAs A contemporary art movement characterised by an openness towards the materials and processes that could be used to make art, and the form it could take. – the YBAs A contemporary art movement characterised by an openness towards the materials and processes that could be used to make art, and the form it could take. . They became internationally recognised in the 1990s and marked a new era in British contemporary art.
  • Today, Craig-Martin is recognised as one of the key figures in the first generation of British conceptual artists. 

Why is this portrait significant?

  • This portrait was Commission A formal request made to an artist to create an artwork. by the National Portrait Gallery.
  • It was the first portrait Craig-Martin made of another person (he also created a self-portrait around the same time in a similar style). He usually chooses everyday objects as the subjects for his artworks, rather than people.
  • He has said being commissioned by the Gallery inspired him to work in new ways.
  • This was the first in his series of ‘Computer Portraits’, made between 2008 and 2014.

Questions

  1. Why might Michael Craig-Martin have chosen to make this portrait constantly change colour?
  1. How might the colours affect the way Hadid appears to us – when her face is bright green, for example?
  1. Craig-Martin and Hadid were friends. Do you think this might have influenced the way he created the portrait? In what way?