Though many art prizes of similar scale exist, few have become such a topic of national discussion as the Turner Prize (Named after the impressionist painter J.M.W. Turner). Taking place annually, the artists are nominated for an exhibition of their work that has taken place in the previous year, ensuring the award remains at the forefront of contemporary interest and debate in the art world. The winner of the prize receives £40 000, yet the gain for each of the four on the shortlist is unquantifiable in both acclaim and exposure. The prize, then, is to some extent a barometer of the state of play of the art world, and the financial aid allows the winning artist the chance to continue and evolve an artistic practice at the fore of contemporary art discussion.
While the shortlist often causes much controversy, this year still managed to throw up some surprises. The artists selected are:
For her Tate and Grizedale Arts commission Wantee, and her two-part installation for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women Farfromwords.
Laure Prouvost, Installation view, Max Mara Prize for Women, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2013 © Laure Prouvost, courtesy MOTInternational, London
Laure Prouvost is an artist who uses film in unexpected and playful ways. Her work for the Max Mara Art Prize, shown at the Whitechapel Gallery earlier this year, was the culmination of a residency in Italy. In a space papered with collaged images, it featured a multi-screen film installation showing footage of bathers in a river, with sexually implicit connections made to fish and raspberries, among other things. The show was a clear demonstration of her working practice in general, with jump cuts and irreverent connections made throughout. While Prouvost also uses conventional collage, her time-based work can be seen as filmic assemblage as well. Through her film, installation and use of language, Prouvost creates a figure of an artist who is almost slapdash, yet this too is a fiction, and the often misspelt text that accompanies her work is part of the character she has constructed.
For his project at documenta (XIII) This Variation, and at Tate Modern These Associations.
Tino Sehgal and participants of These Associations, Photo courtesy of Johnny Green
Seghal is at the forefront of discussion since the shortlist was announced. Working in performance, his work explores notions of engineered encounter and explore the boundaries of artistic control. His show at the Tate Modern in the Turbine Hall involved a group of participants who at certain times would follow specific instructions, organising and synchronising their movements almost as an oblique army. At other times, they would disperse and approach audience members, telling them a personal story. As Seghal had not scripted these interactions – and as each viewer would receive a different story – the ‘art moment’ became highly individualised and largely beyond the artist’s control. Seghal is only the second performance artist to ever be nominated for the prize (Spartacus Chetwynd was the first, in 2012), yet as performance-based work increasingly moves to the spotlight, his nomination seems apt.
For his solo show at the Hayward Gallery, David Shrigley: Brain Activity.
David Shrigley, I’m Dead 2010, © David Shrigley, courtesy Collection Hamilton Corporate Finance Limited, Image courtesy Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The fact that Shrigley is a trained fine artist often comes as a shock to those who know him best for his irreverent and darkly comic cartoons, featured everywhere from cards and bags to mugs and billboards. Yet as his retrospective at the Hayward demonstrated, he also maintains a practice in sculpture and photography, all handled with the sly and subversive turn that marks his illustrations. Humour often sits uncomfortably in the art world; whilst many artists will be wry and playful in their work (such as Prouvost, above) there are few who attempt to be laugh-out-loud funny. As such, Shrigley’s work has been dismissed in the past as one-liners. Yet this, perhaps, is why his inclusion is so interesting, as it addresses head-on the question of what we conventionally consider art. Similar to Prouvost, Shrigley’s work collectively engineers a persona who has created these works: for his part, a paranoiac, perhaps even schizoid with an often black humour.
For her exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery Extracts and Verses.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Midnight, Cadiz 2013, Courtesy: Corvi-Mora, London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, Photo: Marcus Leith, London
Perhaps the least-known artist on the shortlist, Yiadom-Boakye works exclusively in the medium of paint. Using the trope of conventional figurative painting, her haunting canvasses explore notions of race and the absence of black figures in European painting. The people she creates are fictitious and in some ways become emblematic paradigms, without clear gender, race or age. She often uses a very dark palette, yet this chromatic density is belied by her lightness of touch in mark-making. Using fluid, gestural brushstrokes, the people on the canvas are simultaneously weighted yet on the point of disappearing off the canvas: an apt allegory for an absence in the history of western art.
As part of the UK City of Culture 2013, the Turner Prize exhibition will be held at Ebrington in Derry-Londonderry between 23 October 2013 – 5 January 2014.
The winner will be announced announced on 2 December 2013.
By Rebecca Jagoe
Image courtesy of the Tate Modern