Down to a fine art

2011-12-09 11:10

Bookies – and critics – favourite Martin Boyce won the Turner Prize this week, claiming £25 000 (R315 197) and one of the art world’s most controversial awards.

The 44-year-old’s distinctive sculptural installations, which seek to create an urban landscape within the confines of the gallery space, topped a shortlist of artworks that some critics said was one of the best in the Turner’s 27-year history.

“Some really good artists have won the Turner Prize and some really good artists have not won the Turner Prize,” Boyce told a press conference after winning the award.

“The impact of this hasn’t even hit yet and I don’t know when or if it’s going to hit.’’

Brown paper “leaves’’ are strewn across the floor of his exhibition at the Baltic gallery in Gateshead, northern England, which hosted the awards.

“I guess it has something to do with hope and finding the poetic in the abject,’’ Boyce said of his work.

A rubbish bin-like structure fitted with a fabric-liner and small, rectangular grills attached to the wall at ankle height produces the atmosphere of a city park.

“Boyce has steadily shown himself to be strong through his work seen internationally and in a number of big shows,’’ said Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate galleries, which run the yearly award.

It is the second year running that a Scottish artist has won the Turner Prize after Susan Philipsz claimed the 2010 award for her sound installation.

The winning choice this year was more restrained than it has been in the past. The Turner Prize is famous for sparking fierce debate about what constitutes art.

Damien Hirst was presented with the prize in 1995 for a pickled cow. In 2001, an empty room with a light that switched on and off clinched the prize for Martin Creed.

But the lack of controversy this year did not dampen public interest in the exhibition of works by the four shortlisted artists and a nearly naked man in a pink tutu who leapt on stage during the proceedings providing a brief moment of hilarity.

More than 100?000 people have visited the show at the Baltic since it opened in October – already double the number that saw the exhibition at the Tate in London last year.

Celebrity photographer Mario Testino, who presented the award, said the Turner Prize had made more people aware of contemporary art.

“There is a lot more consciousness today in the art world...People are more aware and art is more accessible,’’ he said.

“The Turner Prize has been a key player in making people look at art,’’ he said.

Second favourite and the only painter on the shortlist, George Shaw, depicts the melancholic and gritty urban wasteland of Coventry, his childhood home.

With his unusual choice of Humbrol enamel, normally used in model making, Shaw gives the paintings a glossy sheen that contrasts with their drab subject matter.

Video artist Hilary Lloyd has constructed a room of flickering images where the projectors are just as much a part of the artwork as the videos themselves.

Karla Black’s pastel powder creations bring the sense of smell to her vast constructions of paper and plastic through the use of balsa wood, moisturiser and nail varnish.

The three runners-up each receive £5 000 pounds.

Boyce said the prize was a confirmation of his youthful dream to become an artist, a career decision fraught with uncertainty about the future.

“I never thought I would be able to support my family through art, but I am able to live a creative life and it’s a privilege,’’ he said.

The Turner Prize, created in 1984, is awarded every year to a British artist under the age of 50 whose work over the past year has been judged as particularly innovative and important.

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