Every year I have wanted to go to the Turner Prize Exhibition, and never made it. Admittedly, I hadn’t lived in London until 2010, although in 2009 I did make a trip to London and managed to end up at Tate Modern (bit of a schoolgirl error, I know).
However, this year, especially with all the furore in the press, I was determined to see the exhibition. With Tate Britain being within walking distance of where I live (which, unfortunately isn’t Pimlico, but a girl can dream) I really didn’t have an excuse not to go.
So off I set, early one Sunday morning in November to ensure I was there before it got really busy, and definitely before any children in attendance had got bored. I wasn’t sure what to expect, however, I wasn’t disappointed.
In brief, the Turner Prize exhibition shows the work of the four finalists shortlisted by the panel. The criteria for nomination are that the artist is either British or works in Britain, is under 50 years of age, and their nomination is for an exhibition of their work within the previous 12 months (so, in theory, you could be nominated more than once, and it isn’t a lifetime achievement award). The winner was announced on 6th December, however, I wanted to record my thoughts on the exhibition here, if only for my own reference.
Dexter Dalwood paints pictures where the main protagonist is often absent, however, is often referred to in the title. I’m afraid my general ignorance did mean that I was unaware of what some of the paintings were about, however, I was impressed by the combination of painting styles within the paintings.
The Otolith Group had produced a film entitled ‘Otolith III’. I was determined to give it a fair viewing and I have to say that I became mesmerised by rhythm of the images and footage used. I’ve never really given ‘art through film’ a fair hearing, however, given time and the correct setting I do think it has its place.
Angela de la Cruz takes monochrome canvases, often supersized, and then deconstructs them by removing them from their frames, or disassembling and assembling their frames. Taking something 2-dimensional and making it 3-dimensional. It was an intriguing approach and definitely gave a different perspective.
Susan Philipsz had put three speakers into her gallery (and a conventional, old-fashioned bench). Her installation under three bridges on the River Clyde in Glasgow, featured her singing a 16th Century Scottish lament (of which there are three different versions) called Lowlands Away. Each speaker (originally positioned one under each bridge) broadcast a different version of the song. I sat and I listened and I was stunned.
Susan, who originally trained as a sculptor, considers her work to be ‘sound sculpture’ and I can see where she is coming from. It was so interesting to sit and listen to how the songs split apart for the verses and came together for the choruses and the wall of noise that this created.
I remember hearing a quote once where a little boy was asked whether he preferred the radio or the television and his response was ‘the radio – the pictures are better’. And I have to say that summed up how I felt about Lowlands Away. The haunting melody of the lament, the clean and tidy lines of the room, and the complete nothingness aside from the sound was amazing. And I could totally see why everyone had got so touchy about what the press were going to say at the preview.
Helpfully, each artist had made a video explaining their work and these are shown in the last room of the exhibition.
I left the exhibition not knowing who would win, and not even really having a favourite. All I do know is that Susan Philipsz’s work definitely stayed with me.
I went back to Tate Britain today, and made sure I went to the Turner Prize exhibition again (it ends on Sunday). It was still as good as the first time, there were just more people there, and I still stayed the longest in Susan’s room.
Fingers crossed (and weather willing) I intend to experience Surround Me tomorrow – I’ll be letting you know what I think!