Glasgow & West Scotland

Turner Prize: School bags, songs and Saltires as pupils create own exhibits

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Media captionChildren have created a psychedelic circle in the playground at St Albert's Primary

It's easy to be cynical about the Turner Prize.

Where else could you witness a room in which the lights go on and off (Martin Creed, 2001, one of the many Scots artists to win the prize), an unmade bed (Tracey Emin, 1999, although it didn't actually win), or a room full of plastic sheets and the debris of bath bombs (another Scots artist, Karla Black, who was nominated in 2011, the same year, fellow Scot Martin Boyce won the award)?

And it's the sort of work which divides audiences as well as critics.

The regular war-cry at Turner exhibitions is "that's not art", closely followed by "anyone could do that".

But pupils at one Glasgow primary school - St Albert's in Pollokshields - took the latter as a positive message.

After visiting the Turner Prize exhibition at the nearby Tramway venue, and the touring bus which includes details of the many Scots who've won or been nominated for the prize over the years, they made their own art exhibition.

Image caption Janie Kerbel's a capella 24-minute opera inspired primary 2 at St Albert's to come up with their own song

With every single year group involved, and other groups besides, it fills every available space, and spills over into the playground.

Some are directly inspired by what they've seen. Primary 2 echo Janice Kerbel's song cycle Doug with their work Breathing, on the subject of pollution.

Three children sing the words "dirty", "disease", "stinky", as the rest of the class, wearing face masks, point to the photographs they've taken, and the sculpture they've made on the same subject.

Primary 1 have taken Nicole Werner's fur coat encased chairs (famously headlined "Furcoats and Nae sniggers" in one Scottish newspaper) and made their own version using classroom chairs and schoolbags.

Image caption Primary 1 pupils used their school bags and class chairs to mimic the fur coats work by artist Nicole Werner

But they too expand their work with lights and photographs.

"It's improved their literacy because it's not just been about the art itself," says headteacher Clare Harker.

"They've talked about it in class, discussed what they like and don't like, and explained their own artwork."

And these pupils know their Turner Prize history.

In the playground, a Jim Lambie inspired psychedelic circle (Turner nominee, 2005), is augmented by thought bubbles in which children can write their comments. Fazia has written "I feel amazing because we have finally reached the Turner Prize."

Primary 3, 4 and 5 have also made a piece inspired by the work of another winner - Martin Boyce (2011). Trees of Love and Peace invite pupils to add their own thoughts to monochrome leaves.

Image caption Primary 3, 4 and 5 made Trees of Love and Peace where pupils can add their own thoughts to monochrome leaves

The EAL group - pupils learning English as an additional language - has also added some Turner Prize knowledge to their piece Come In - which is inspired by Syrian refugees in the school.

Among them, Jalal, who's six and Rayan who's seven. They only arrived in Scotland in May - but now speak English with broad Glasgow accents.

Their sculpture shows a man, pushing through a Saltire flagged door from Syria. The lettering on the Syrian side is gold - a nod to 2009 winner Richard Wright, who've they've discussed in the group.

"We took lots of gold paper and cut it up into small pieces," says Rayan. "It took a long time. The man is pushing through the door with his family. But not every family can come in."

Image caption One of the works shows a man pushing through a Saltire flagged door

Holly Rumble is Tramway's public engagement officer. They've had six times the number of visitors they'd normally expect at an exhibition in Tramway, and many schools like this have staged their own exhibitions.

She's keen to stress it's not over once the prize is announced.

"The exhibition will run till January and we'll continue our family workshops," she says.

"And even when the Turner exhibition is finished, we'll start to lead up to Glasgow International, which takes place in April in the city. We want contemporary art to continue to be seen as a regular thing."

And while all eyes might be on Tramway on Monday evening as the winner of the 2015 Turner Prize is announced, St Albert's has its own winners.

Judges declared - Breathing, Eye AM and Footsteps to Happiness the winners of their own Wee Turner Prize.

Their reward - a trip to the cinema for the children, and some time out of class for their teachers.

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