This year’s Turner Prize features four artists, seemingly very different. Paul Noble, Luke Fowler, Spartacus Chetwynd and Elizabeth Price form this year’s shortlist exhibition. Each artist must be living, working or born in the UK and is nominated for an exceptional exhibition in the last year.
Paul Noble, who was shortlisted for his solo exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in London, centers his work on technically astonishing drawings which describe his fictional metropolis Nobson Newtown. These drawn buildings also feature excrement, which in Nobson Newtown seems to be used for architectural purposes. Noble has also immortalized turds in marble sculptures and, as initially humorous as this may be, there is not enough to occupy the spectator in each piece. There are thought-provoking themes in this work but more questions could have been asked of the viewers.
Luke Fowler is the next artist in the exhibition. Fowler was nominated for his exhibition at Inverleith House in Edinburgh and has explored the life of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Using found footage from film and sound archives, Luke Fowler plays with narrative and the traditions of the documentary in a 93 minute film. However interesting the initial subject matter may be, the length of the film is problematic, especially in a group exhibition. I recommend checking the Tate website for the screening times beforehand.
…tie together church architecture, pop performances and footage from a fire…
Elizabeth Price is the second artist using film in the Turner Prize this year. Price showed a trilogy of video installations at BALTIC, Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. In the shortlist exhibition she is just showing one and, in contrast to Fowler, the film is 20 minutes in length. Titled The Woolworths Choir of 1979, the film uses existing footage to tie together church architecture, pop performances and footage from a fire in a Woolworths store in Manchester in which ten people died. Price employs sound and text in this film to great effect to tie these seemingly disparate subjects together to explore our material world.
The final artist in this year’s shortlist is Spartacus Chetwynd, who was nominated for her exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ in London. Chetwynd is the first performance artist to be shortlisted for the prize. Her performances play with the roles of spectator and performer, but the empty sets themselves are a sight not to miss as they contain an atmosphere of anticipation for the performance yet to come, as well as being installations in their own right.
…why he felt the need to create a humorous utopia…
This year’s shortlist contains four apparently very different styles; yet there are themes which tie the whole exhibition together. All these artists deal with the notion of society. Noble explores society by creating his own utopian town, and the work is made more interesting when thinking about why he felt the need to create a humorous utopia. Fowler explores subversive movements and figures which seek to contradict norms of society, for example the anti-university which is a focus at one point in the film. Price explores our material culture by drawing parallels with churches and Woolworths; whilst Chetwynd uses theatre to explore history and culture. Whilst these themes are interesting a better balance of visually and well as intellectually challenging would be appreciated.
As the Turner Prize has always heralded itself as a contemporary art prize, a year when all the artists explore society in some respect perhaps says something about recent economic and political events which have lead artists to feel the need to reappraise our society.