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Turner credits bold and beautiful

Razia Iqbal | 15:00 UK time, Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Turner Prize Jury are a powerful group. It is down to them to decide who makes it onto the nominations list. And they can put anyone forward, as long as the artist is British, or lives and works here; is under fifty years old and has taken part in an exhibition in the past year.

There is no formal nomination process, and no gallery pushing artists forward. Nothing external influences the jurors, apart from whatever they see happening in the art world.

So, in that respect, the decision is quite personal, and potentially emotional and subjective. But is it just me, or has the prize gone off the boil in the last couple of years?

It's true that audiences continue to visit the exhibition when it runs between October and the prize ceremony in December. And there also continues to be sufficient interest in the tabloids for those screeching and tedious, "but is it art?" headlines. But, recently, it has just felt a bit dull.

That's why the jurors (this year: Jonathan Jones, Guardian art critic; Mariella Frostrup, writer and broadcaster; Stephen Deuchar, Director, Tate Britain and Chair; and Dr Andrea Schlieker, Director of the Folkestone Triennial.) are important.

Even if it is subjective, they sift the wheat from the chaff for you and me. And this year, they have come up with the following: Enrico David, Roger Hiorns, Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright.

I loved Roger Hiorns' Artangel Commission in south London, in which he turned a derelict flat into a cave of sulphurous splendour.
And I look forward to what alchemy he has in store for the Tate exhibition.

No video installlations this year, which is merely coincidence rather than design, but a bit of a relief to those who hanker after the traditional arts.

Enrico David is a figurative painter, but not as you and I might recognise it - and he wouldn't want you to try and define what he does anyway.

Lucy Skaer draws, but is also a sculptor and has started doing installations. And Richard Wright is also a painter, whose sources are as varied as Medieval painting and graphics.

If there is one thing that makes all these artists stand out it is that they actually make things, and in the case of Roger Hiorns and Enrico David (the only two whose works I have seen, as opposed to just pictures) things that are beautiful to look at. This makes the exhibition at Tate Britain, in October, one we can look forward to, for the first time in years.


  • Comment number 1.

    here's hopingthe emperor remembers to put some cloths on this year for the Turner.

    So are the KLF still giving money to the losers?

  • Comment number 2.

    Regarding the Turner Prize, the art writing is invariably more interesting than the art - and often, the art itself can provide imaginative flights of ideas. But does that make the art any good?

    For instance, Lucy Skaer has positioned a diamond and a scorpion on an Amsterdam street. Or a pupae in the Old Bailey, in the hope it might hatch during a trial. WTF? Obviously, this might be demeaning her work or passion. But so what? How are we expected to receive it? And surely if a work is exhibited in a public space, then there is some duty to engage with this supposed public?

    So, such "interventions" are absurd and strange. The concept might appear intriguing, but as art it remains quite as insubstantial as an unhatched idea. The video, performance and conceptual ethos that so often characterises the Turner has leaked into the supposedly more conventional modes of painting and sculpture. Painting, or "two dimensional manipulation" plays the same elusive and ungenerous tricks, where nothing is to be regarded as true, or better, or valid, or beautiful.

    A classic example where artist and critic parade and elude one another can be seen here, in "Time Out" of this week. Ostensibly, a critic is reviewing an artist.

    "Genzken’s surface-over-substance aesthetic makes it hard to love her work. The glittering materials and soulless models attract us briefly like magpies, but also foster doubt and refuse to reveal their true intent. She’s much more than a mere vacuous colour-player, but Genzken teases and confounds rather than truly conveying or convincing"

    That basically means "I have no idea what this random shit is about".

    I saw that work at the German Pavilion in Venice in 2007. It was shiny litter, pure nonsense. Surely an artist representing their country should have some engagement with their culture, beyond the art world? And if not, why is it exhibited in public spaces, for the confoundment of those the public spaces were meant for when, say, the Biennale was established as some kind of "art olympics"?

    But it isn't so. Seeing anything in Venice at the Biennale, one quickly realises how absurd it might be to make any connection whatsoever between artist and country, and furthermore, that any qualitative judgement is enitirely impossible.

    If all the art is so codified and abstruse that it is hostile to almost all viewers, and enjoyed by even fewer, then why make it a public show? As an art college graduate, I dislike most of the shortlisted artists (for many years now), and feel dismayed and confused by this most public of art shows - the Turner.

    Just like the Baltic with their dismal British Art Show, as with Tate Britain, I think that such open, free and public spaces (with their funding) have a duty to avoid alienating, joyless, elitist and unrewarding exhibitions.

    Most of the shows at Ikon, Arnolfini, Tramway, Cornerhouse, MAO, Baltic, Serpentine, Whitechapel etc are definably unenjoyable for the majority of the population, however cultured they are. And yet they receive major grants. In my view, the "public art gallery" is more an umbrella environment for a coterie of curators than it is a welcoming place for a sophisticated public.

  • Comment number 3.

    Last few years, the art pieces (if you can call it that) has been terrible. It's becoming a bit of a joke really. It seems they are trying to create the most ridiculous piece of art and put it forward as "art". What is art? Check out an art piece by Claire Morgan called Gone With the Wind at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. Absolutely brilliant.


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