Turner Prize 2011: Great art or rubbish?

Turner Prize-nominated artworks
The artists nominated for the Turner Prize are (clockwise from top left): Martin Boyce, Hilary Lloyd, Karla Black and George Shaw.
21 October 2011 Last updated at 10:57 GMT
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Ok, today I want to open up a slightly different topic. I’ve written quite a lot about my work in the last few days and I intend to go back to doing that, probably with another piece from my past portfolio, on Monday. For today’s page I would like to approach the subject of some other art that’s currently out in the public domain; namely the Turner Prize 2011 short list. As you all probably know this years exhibition has just opened at the Baltic in Gateshead, I naturally haven’t had chance to go to it yet but that has made me all the more curious about the current contenders. So I thought I would spend sometime this weekend looking at who they are, what they do and possibly speculating about who the potential winner should and is likely to be; the two things not always being the same! Plus there is also the whole notion of the Turner prize set up; what do you think about that, is it elitist, outmoded, give me your thoughts.

Actually now I think more about it, I think I will expand this project to run over the next five or six weekends; there is so much out there to be said and looked at that one weekend really wouldn’t do this any kind of justice, just think of this as your weekend colour arts supplement! Plus, as always, I would like your feedback on this.  Consider this an introduction then and perhaps the next week will give you time to think and respond next weekend; please feel free to make any comments as I progress; perhaps we could get a forum going about this.

I started this page off with an image from the BBC  News website, do have a look at the link as a starting point. It really is very typical of the kind of things we see being published about the show every year when the press like to try to reopen the perennial; “Great art or rubbish?” debate. Well what do you think? What I actually find most interesting is that many of the people interviewed picked up on a strong feeling of gender demarkation in the work this year. For me, I would say if you were presented with any of the work with no foreknowledge you could say whether it was by a man or a woman. Not that I attribute any great significance to this, for me those days should be past, although some of the artists themselves may feel differently and I will be interested to see if it does become a major feature of the debate. For now it is at least an interesting starting point. Now I guess I’d better get the ball rolling on this, so to further this feeling of gender balance I have decide to introduce one male and one female artist today and then the same tomorrow; don’t read anything deep and meaningful into the fact that I have started with the two Scots, that is a complete fluke!

Martin Boyce


So where to start with Martin Boyce? Well I will start by saying that I actually quite like his work, that sounded more like a surprise than it was supposed to! His work has a sense of heritage without it being eternalistic, which I find rewarding. The work always seems to flow quite naturally from one form to another, nothing ever feels forced. I find this strongly in his excellent and inspiring typography and the air-vent grills. And perhaps there is another reason for this, the work is simple, generally unfussy and even the titles hang on the pieces with a certain, elegance? Design, maybe that is the word. I am also very taken with his choice of material and finish; here again a lot of the masculine influences show themselves along with those, more than,  nods to modernism. Certainly the fact that most, if not all the pieces are drawn from one from one source;  the Martel Brothers “Cubists Concrete Trees”, 1925, is another thing that accounts for this unity. Perhaps also for the masculinity; galvanised metal mixed with concrete and modernism, how “butch” can you get? What I do find  a little difficult is his acceptance of moving, what was a great show in Venice in such a wholesale fashion to Dundee! The work, a lot of which had quite definitely evolved in the space in Venice,  really didn’t travel-well and for me that opens certain questions of judgement. The air-vent grills, which were new for Dundee were in fact the strongest part of this transposition and perhaps that should have suggested something about the hole the rest of the work was falling into. Still it is good work and I don’t want to weigh it down to heavily with my own prejudice before I see it in Gateshead, I will be interested how his pieces work at the Baltic.


Karla Black


Karla Black is the one of this years artists whom I am least familiar with the work of and so I found the above interview to be a really useful introduction to it. The first thing that comes out of it for me is a real empathy with her work. The way she is trying to present colour in a 3 dimensional space but within the limits of a sculptural practice chimes very closely with what I try to do through my paintings practice. There is a huge crossover of fields here which I really would like to investigate further and certainly raises some interesting questions within my own work. Another area which draws me to this work is its “transient physicality”, I won’t go so far as to use my phrase of “situation specific”, because her thinking doesn’t go that fa,r but there is a very strong sense of the immediate about the pieces; although I suspect that may be rather diluted by seeing more that one of her shows. For some reason I am suddenly reminded of the work of Pae White, http://www.suecrockford.com/artists/images.asp?aid=46, and I can only think that in comes from “recurring immediacy”, if I may call it that. Of course the thing which I haven’t yet broached is this widely reported femininity within her work, which she herself is so gratifyingly applauded by. Although, I would have to say, I would be surprised if she hadn’t seen it coming. Regardless of the use of toiletries, which I do accept are there for their material value alone; and I am very impressed by her defence of that material, physical response, there is a lightness of touch in her work which I find quite feminine. I don’t say this in any way other than as a compliment, I think it is a quality lacking in the work of many sculptors and indeed artists in general and as something she should be very proud of.

So that’s the first half of my introduction to the Turner Prize 2011, lets hear what you have to say now. Tomorrow I will consider the work of Hilary Lloyd and George Shaw.