Michael Glover: You could call Wright's art minimalist, but it is also luxurious

Tuesday 08 December 2009 01:00

The least demonstrative and the most unassuming of this year's nominees wins the Turner Prize for a painting-cum-drawing that covers an entire wall at Tate Britain – yes, that's (almost) all there is, my friends – and which is likely to disappear when the show is over.

The judges have once again opted for an art which pays homage to restrained, non-figurative patterning – as it did in 2006 when the prize was won by an interesting abstract painter called Tomma Abts.

Richard Wright is into a kind of laboriously hand-crafted repetitive patterning that often makes for an almost invisible art – in a certain light over at Tate Britain, you can barely see it at all. Last time he had a show in London, I had to look hard to find the work, because there was nothing at all on the floor or the walls.

The main piece was up on the ceiling, where I had forgotten to look, and another in an out-of-the-way back room.

Its roots are in traditions of Islamic calligraphy, or even decorative fabrics. Like Carl André – another man made famous by the Tate (in his case for a configuration of bricks) – Wright walks into the space empty-handed, without finished works. He sizes it up. Then he draws, in situ, on its surfaces, responding to its shape, its atmosphere, the context of what he has been invited to appropriate, engulf, characterise, re-define.

But only temporarily. These drawings don't go anywhere. Nobody tries to peel them off the walls. They remain for the duration, they are documented with photographs, and then they are destroyed.

Wright makes an art which alludes to the passing nature of life and the necessary impermanence of art. The whole enterprise, here on this wall, seems so tentative, as if it were a kind of effrontery to do any more. You could call his art minimalist. But it is also, for all its ethereal nature, luxurious in its way; a luxury that always threatens to pass away, and after a while does.

Best of '09: Were you impressed by Richard Wright's work? Was the Turner Prize show the most memorable arts event of 2009? We want to hear about your favourite cultural moments of the year. In the comments form below or at www.independent.co.uk/bestof09 nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.

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