Eyes on the Turner Prize
It is famed for its wacky works – and with one piece titled The Same Old Crap, this year's Turner Prize is no exception
Rob Sharp is a freelance journalist specialising in arts and culture. He was on staff at The Independent from July 2007 to December 2011, first as a features writer, and then as the paper’s arts correspondent. He has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. For more information visit his website, www.robsharp.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday 21 October 2011
A dog dirt bin, a pile of crumpled paper and scattered chalk... it's the Turner Prize again. The modern art award fights each year to make headlines. This time around one of the four shortlisted artists has presented a self-deprecating front, naming a landscape of a ruinous urban scene The Same Old Crap, an apparent reference to the repetitive nature of both his art and the prize itself.
George Shaw's 2011 painting, unveiled as part of the 2011 Turner Prize exhibition which opens in Gateshead to the public today, was made using Humbrol enamel paint – traditionally used to decorate toy models – and depicts a demolished pub close to a housing estate in the outskirts of Coventry where the artist once lived. The show's curator, Laurence Sillars, says the title partly comes from Shaw's "self-deprecation", regarding how his subject matter stays the same.
Godfrey Worsdale, director of Gateshead art centre Baltic, where the Turner Prize exhibition is being held for the first time, said he "wouldn't like to read into" whether the title was referring to the prize itself. "George has got a very sharp sense of humour," he added.
Talking about this year's selections, Mr Worsdale continued: "As a juror, these choices were made on the quality of the work. As a host for this exhibition I am very pleased that we are able to present a painter, a filmmaker, an installation artist and a sculpture all in one show and that says something interesting about the state of contemporary art at the moment."
It is the second time the prize, which recognises work exhibited by a British artist under 50, has been held outside London.
Critic's view: Laura Mclean-Ferris on the nominees
Karla Black Perhaps the most formally innovative of the three, Black has created a huge, sculptural landscape made from pale, chalked-up sugar paper that looks like a crumpled, crumbling pastel slope or tidal wave. The way one enters this space, first glimpsed through layers of polythene streaked with paint in flaking green and peachy red, it feels as though one is moving across layers of paintings: through shower-curtain watercolours and painters such as Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell and Sam Francis. There's a very pure engagement in colour and form here, and this is my favourite of the four.
Martin Boyce Boyce has been exploring a frozen moment in modernist design for some years now, and at Baltic he has created a kind of total environment of sharp, aerodynamic triangular forms. The gallery's pillars have become trees topped with painted metallic leaf forms; a Jean Prouvé library table has been scrawled on in the artist's spiky font; and colourful triangular shards hang from a mobile. It is like the heaven that modernism went to after it died. Boyce has been exploring this decade for over a decade now, and while this exhibition is good looking and sees him lightened up a bit, it's familiar, remarkably well-designed territory.
George Shaw Shaw had a popular exhibition at Baltic this year. His paintings of the Tile Hill housing estate where he grew up in Coventry are excellent. Shaw has been making pictures of recession Britain for years, paying careful attention to the bald ugliness of rundown shops and crappy pubs. There's always something off-centre – a bent railing, an uneven doorway – but the way these scenes are flatly rendered in Humbrol paint (used for Airfix models) makes them less interesting than they could be. I think Shaw is most likely to win.
Hilary Lloyd Several videos and projections are displayed in a room with a large, high window. On one blank white screen, tower blocks pop in and out of shot jauntily at different angles, drawing attention to the blocks outside. In Moon, two screens divided into chequered grids show different sizes of bouncing moons interspersed with footage of tall clock towers. There is a good energy in some of these films, but I can't help but think that this work is too dry to win her the Turner Prize – or many new fans.
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