Turner Prize is far from picture perfect

You can almost guarantee The Turner Prize to cause a rumpus for one reason or another but this year's row was an unusual spat between the photographers who'd arrived to cover the exhibition's launch and Tate Britain.

The gallery handed photographers a contract which included a sub-clause which warned them not to broadcast or publish any filming, photographs or text that would "result in any adverse publicity for the Tate". The contracts got torn up and the photographers were left cooling their heels outside.

Eventually, the Tate backed down and opened its doors. In the meantime, print journalists were given a tour of the exhibition, which opens to the public today. The verdict? Neither especially good nor especially bad, but moderately mediocre.

The Turner never succeeds in ravishing us visually. It doesn't make us weep in despair either. Things could be worse, but can this really be the best art made in Britain by a man or woman under 50 has to offer?

Four artists are competing for the £25,000 top prize. Susan Philipsz's Lowlands fills an entire empty gallery – well, it's empty apart from three black speakers, which project slightly different recordings of her singing a melancholy 16th-century folksong, a cappella about a lost love who returns from the grave to haunt his beloved. It's wistful, touching, engaging in its sweet, untutored rawness but might be a touch more engaging if you could hear the lyrics.

Dexter Dalwood is the only painter in the show. He makes what look like flatly, thinly painted, scaled-up collages in oils, mixing and matching his influences – sometimes bits of cubist paintings turn up. You could call him a history painter de nos jours. The titles of the works tend to talk up their significance – The Death of David Kelly comments upon a man who found himself embroiled in the deadly game of politics. Is this painting really an imaginative embodiment of the Kelly tragedy? These paintings seem to be making claims for themselves that the works themselves don't quite justify.

The Otolith Group is a collective practice. Books sit on tables, waiting to be read. TV screens present a 13-part television series about the heritage of Hellenism made by the French film-maker Chris Marker. On the big screen a film called Otolith III takes an unreleased film project by Satyajit Ray, and partially realises it through an ever-shifting sequence of archival images. At times it becomes a visually ravishing dream world. As an enterprise, it also feels monstrously pretentious.

Like the Otolith group, the Spanish sculptor Angela de la Cruz is in the business of interrogating her own practice as an artist. She makes paintings of a relatively minimal kind, and then she does violence to them.

But as with so much in this show, there is too much premeditation here. These artists have forgotten that art can also thrive by letting go.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935