The selected artists nominated work
Paul Noble – Noble is the current (at the time of writing) favourite to win the Turner Prize and his nomination for his incredible drawings has attracted some controversy ‘Pile of Poo is favourite for Turner Prize’ as the Sun newspaper headline read (28 November 2012). Noble has been nominated for his densely detailed drawings of the imaginary metropolis of Nobson Newtown and its surroundings. These consist of huge miniatures, which are meticulously executed in minute detail, which give the feeling as if everything can be seen, near and far. The drawings have a dreamy quality, but they are also melancholy in atmosphere. What appears to be a beautiful landscape is full of minute parodies of modernist sculpture. What looks like a celestial greenhouse in the sea is in fact the site of an ecological disaster. An amazing house called Paul’s Palace contains games in every room. It is like viewing inside his sleeping mind. I noticed these drawings a few weeks ago and found them absolutely fascinating. They appeal to my sense of other-wordlyness. There is a great sense of humour in the drawings. They remind me of the drawings (albeit on a more sophisticated level) of a child, recreating a fantasy parallel universe. Perhaps these drawings are the evidence of a disturbed psyche; the creating of a fantasy world away from the real world.
Noble says of his drawing style: ‘I use the devices of technical drawing. These devices help shine the sharpest light on the things I depict. I am against hierarchies and perspective. I arrange the objects of my drawings on a spatial plane using cavalier projection. The origins of this projection lay in military cartography – fore, mid and background are got rid of and everything depicted is equally close and far. The viewer becomes the architect and the drawing, an architectural plan. He or she is no longer earthbound but hovers like an angel over the described scene, taking in the entire design.’
Spartacus Chetwynd – Chetwynd is the first performance artist to make the shortlist for the Turner Prize. She has been shortlisted for an exhibition / performance involving a puppet version of the story of Jesus and the criminal Barabas and a puppet ‘oracle’ who gives out advice. The performance involves paintings, carnivalesque displays and sculptural installations utilising handmade costumes and sets. I expect that to get the full benefit of this piece you’d need to be there and become immersed in it. It seems that she is playing on that part of human nature that likes to play and engage in imaginative play (after speaking to a co-student who actually took part in the performance). Her aim is to blur the boundaries between the audience and performers (in the same way as Brecht and Beckett). She is also exploiting our fascination with rituals and myths, creating something that when experienced is oddly believable.
Chetwynd says ‘It was pointed out to me that everything I make looks as if it were about to fall down’.
Luke Fowler – It is for his film ‘All Divided Selves’ about R. D. Laing and the anti-psychiatry movement that Fowler has earned a nomination for the Turner Prize. The film is not presented as a single narrative, rather it is a film of digression, detail, sudden glimpses and brief dialogues. It is a film of short scenes and snapshots of the inner workings of medical institutions mixed with footage of the life going on outside. The aim is to evoke the atmosphere of a particular era, revealing how the relationship between individuals and society changes through time. This film is intriguing to me, the idea of using the technique of telling a story or creating an atmosphere of a culture with short scenes juxtaposed with other methods of visual communication appeals to me.
Fowler says: ‘I see the films as modes of inquiry’ and ‘through every portrait is a self-portrait…I am shining a light on myself and revealing the distortions and colourations of my own life’.
Elizabeth Price – Price has been nominated for a trilogy of video installations called ‘The Woolworths Choir of 1979’. In these she reanimates old archives of imagery, texts and music to explore man’s complex relationship to objects and consumer culture. The sequence of films guide the viewer through huge virtual spaces which are said to be derived from the cultural debris of the material world. She mixes different genres together to create her video. I remember some of the famous Woolworths fires of the 1970s so this topic interests me from an historical point of view, I am also intrigued by her ability to mix digital with text and music and imagery – I have no idea what the final result would look like. Price uses the idea of the ‘choir’ as a play on words: a choir is a body of people making music en masse. The Shrangri-Las feature in the video also, and they are a body of people making music like a choir. Another theme in the video is hand gestures, the hand gestures of the Shrangri-Las, the hand gestures of a woman waving from the burning building. She is linking themes, linking objects. Finally the soundtrack is important, the clicking, the beat, the rhythm.
Price says: ‘I am working intentionally to try and make dense complex things’ and ‘I am interested in the medium of video as something you experience sensually.’
The selected artists previous work
Paul Noble – Noble only managed a grade D in his A Level Art exam (as did Damien Hirst), but undeterred by the doubts of his father he pursued a career in art. Noble has built up his body of work slowly and in October 2010 he created an installation for the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne. This was inspired by the history of the gallery building. He has also spent the past 16 years working on his drawings of Nobson Newtown.
Spartacus Chetwynd – Chetwynd studied social anthropology at University College, London, before attending the Slade and the Royal College of Art. She took up the name Spartacus in 2006 after the slave rebel. Chetwynd lives in a ‘rented nudist commune’ near Nunhead in south-east London, is married fellow artist Jedrzej Cichosz and had her first baby shortly after accepting the nomination (who is apparently being reared as a ‘Gina Ford’ baby because ‘rules’ allow ‘greater freedom’). Her past work includes pieces inspired by Star Wars’ Jabba the Hutt, Planet of the Apes and Michael Jackson. Chetwynd describes her approach to art making as ‘unbridled enthusiasm’. For each piece she aims for complete immersion into the worlds of her subjects, honouring their passions and contributions with her own. Her style has been described as ‘DIY’, she constructs so much of them herself including dying the materials herself.
Luke Fowler – Fowler creates cinematic collages. His films have explored counter culture. He has been using archive film footage to make works about English composer Cornelius Cardew as well as the Turner nominated work about Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing. Fowler has made many films but most recent solo exhibitions include ‘The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the deluded followers of Joanna Southcott’, The Hepworth, Wakefield and ‘Luke Fowler with Toshiya Tsunoda and John Haynes’, Inverleith House, Edinburgh.
Elizabeth Price – London-based Price has had a long career in art. She began working in sculpture in the late 1980s. She later developed projects that explored the histories and dynamics of institutions. More recently, she’s undergone something of a rebirth, creating sci-fi videos including ‘At the House of Mr X’ and ‘User Group Disco’.
The selection process
Artists are chosen to be nominated for the Turner Prize based upon a showing of their work which they have staged in the preceding year. Artists have to be British and under 50 years of age. Public nominations are invited during a three-week period in May. The short list is announced in July. A show of the nominees’ work opens at Tate Britain in late October; and the prize is announced at the beginning of December. The show stays open till January.
The history of the Turner Prize
The Turner Prize, named after J. M. W. Turner, is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50. It was set up to celebrate new developments in contemporary art. In its 25-year history, winners have included Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley, Martin Creed, Tony Cragg and Richard Wright. The Tate Gallery organizes the awarding of the prize and the nominated works are exhibited at Tate Britain. It started in 1984 and since then it has become the United Kingdom’s most publicised art award. Although it supposedly represents all media, and painters have won the prize, it tends to be associated with conceptual art.
The exhibition and prize rely on commercial sponsorship. Up until 1987, money for the prize was provided by Drexel Burnham Lambert and their withdrawal led to the cancellation of the prize in the year 1990. Channel 4 took over for the following year, 1991, doubled the prize money to £20,000. In 2004, they were replaced as sponsors by Gordon’s gin, who doubled the prize money again to £40,000, with £5,000 going to each of the shortlisted artists, and £25,000 to the winner.
Louise Jury, ‘Turner Prize nominee Spartacus Chetwynd lives on a ‘nudist commune’ in Nunhead’, The London Evening Standard (1 October 2012), http://www.standard.co.uk/arts/visual-arts/turner-prize-nominee-spartacus-chetwynd-lives-on-a-nudist-commune-in-nunhead-8192643.html [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Saatchi Gallery, http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/spartacus_chetwynd.htm [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Paul Nobel, ‘Artist Paul Nobel on how he draws’, The Guardian (19 September 2009), http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/spartacus_chetwynd.htm [last accessed 28 November 2012]
BBC News Website video on Paul Noble, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20395473 [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Skye Sherwin, ‘Artist of the week 147: Elizabeth Price’, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jul/21/elizabeth-price-artist-of-week [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Tate – video interview with Elizabeth Price, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/turner-prize-2012-elizabeth-price [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Tate – video interview with Luke Fowler, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/turner-prize-2012-luke-fowler [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Luke Heighton ‘Pile of poo is favourite for Turner Prize’, The Sun Newspaper online (2 October 2012), http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4566815/Plop-Art-This-pile-of-poo-is-favourite-for-25k-Turner-Prize.html [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Artlyst, http://www.artlyst.com/resource-articles/turner-prize-history-1984-2000 [last accessed 28 November 2012]
Wikipedia on the Turner Prize, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turner_Prize [last accessed 28 November 2012]