Now the Turner Prize jury goes for a song

Susan Philipsz becomes first sound artist to receive prestigious award
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The Independent Culture

An art school reject who once sang over the public address system at a branch of Tesco has won this year's Turner Prize.

Glasgow-born Susan Philipsz, 44, was awarded the £25,000 prize at London's Tate Britain last night. The artist won for Lowlands, a series of recordings of a Scottish lament played beneath three River Clyde bridges, and "Long Gone", based on the Syd Barrett song of the same name. Her previous work includes 1998's Filter, in which she sang songs by Radiohead and Nirvana in a crowded bus station and a Tesco supermarket to unsuspecting customers.

The jury, which included Tate Britain director Penelope Curtis and novelist Philip Hensher, said it "admired the way in which her work provokes both intellectual and instinctive responses". The panel "applauded the imaginative worlds of all the artists". Philipsz is the first sound artist to be nominated for the prize.

She was born in 1965 in Maryhill, Glasgow where as a child she joined the local Catholic church with her two sisters. "I just thought it was so magical when all those voices would rise up and come together," she said in an interview last month.

At 23 she was rejected by Glasgow School of Art and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and then the University of Ulster in Belfast, where she met her future husband, photographer Eoghan McTigue. They live and work in Berlin.

"I hate my voice," she said. "I particularly hate my speaking voice: I think I mumble a lot and it's way too quiet."

Critics are more positive. "Having heard Philipsz's Lowlands in situ and in Glasgow, I can say that the soundwork's mournful power is surprisingly undiminished by its trip south," wrote The Independent's Charles Darwent in his October review. "Under a Clyde bridge, the piece – the artist singing a 16th-century lament, a cappella, on a three-part loop – seemed to raise specific Scottish ghosts."

In recent years the prize has become more muted than in the 1990s. In 1993 Damien Hirst's famous pickled shark, Mother and Child, Divided, picked up the award. In 2001, Martin Creed won for flashing lights in an empty gallery, called The Lights Going On and Off.

In May, Curtis said this year's shortlist "is not about emerging talent, it's about people who've proved themselves". All of this year's nominees are artists in their 40s. She said that in the 1990s the prize had become a media circus surrounding Britain's Young British Artists because "it was what the press wanted and what the artists wanted."

The Glasgow International Festival, which ran for two weeks from 16 April, commissioned the winning work. Philipsz was favourite to win before the event with bookmakers Paddy Power offering odds of 4-11. The prize was awarded to an artist under 50 who was born, living or working in Britain for an outstanding exhibition or presentation in the 12 months before 27 April, 2010.

Other shortlisted artists were painter Dexter Dalwood, 49, for a solo exhibition at Tate St Ives featuring portraits of empty rooms belonging to famous figures from popular culture, to mark recent, seminal political events.

Spanish-born Angela de la Cruz, 45 made the shortlist for a series of crumpled canvases at Camden Art Centre, North London. The Otolith Group, a London-based art collective founded in 2002 was also shortlisted. It is named after a part of the inner ear that senses gravity and orientation. The group was honoured for a video art project recutting the work of influential French artist Chris Marker.