Award designed to promote art in Britain may go abroad: David Lister examines the work of the four artists shortlisted for the prestigious, but controversial, Turner Prize

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The Independent Online
THE TURNER PRIZE, the biggest and usually the most controversial in the art world, could go to an artist who has not exhibited in Britain this year, even though the purpose of the prize is to 'promote discussion of new developments in contemporary British art'. Two of the four artists live and work abroad.

The shortlist consists of the abstract painter, Sean Scully; Rachel Whiteread, the sculptor; installations artist, Vong Phaophanit, who came to Britain from Laos in the Eighties; and Hannah Collins, who makes large photographic compilations. None is a figurative painter, continuing the prize's concentration on abstract art and sculpture.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery and chairman of the judging panel, said of Hannah Collins and Rachel Whiteread that working abroad, and contact with unfamiliar artists and ideas had stimulated new developments in their work. 'At the same time, art in Britain is being enriched by artists who bring experience of other cultures to this country,' he added.

Hannah Collins, 37, who exhibited at the Third International Istanbul Biennial and at Barcelona, uses enormously enlarged photographs, printed on canvas and pinned to the gallery wall. Her work has been described as 'simultaneously alarming and exquisite'.

Sean Scully, 48, composes in broad, slightly irregular stripes of resonant colour, and considers the build-up of paint in depth to be a metaphor for depth of feeling and inner life. 'Abstraction is the art of our age,' he adds, believing that figurative art ties the artist too closely to particular things in the world.

Rachel Whiteread, 30, was also shortlisted last year. She takes casts from commonplace household objects. Her work Ghost was a plaster cast of an entire room.

Vong Phaophanit, 32, creates installations which spring from his experience of leaving his homeland and family. In one, he projected snapshots of his family on to a white-sheeted bed on to which poured a steady stream of rice.

The Turner Prize is awarded to a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or presentation in the preceding 12 months.

(Photographs omitted)