Turner Prize shortlist announcement sparks customary war of words

By Culture24 Staff | 28 April 2009
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A picture of blue crystals

(Above) Roger Hiorns, Seizure (2008), A Jerwood / Artangel Commission, Harper Road, London. Picture courtesy Corvi-Mora, London

The traditional eight months of feverish bickering and self-aggrandising debate began in earnest today (April 28 2009) after this year’s quartet of nominees for the Turner Prize 2009 was announced.

Surreal Italian sculptor Enrico David, installation crystallographer Roger Hiorns, abstract Glasgow artist Lucy Skaer and baroque observer Richard Wright compete for the £25,000 winner’s cheque in the 26th instalment of the oft-maligned prize, with the overlooked trio each earning £5,000 for the trouble of being relentlessly scrutinised between now and December 2009.

A picture of artefacts on a wooden floor

Lucy Skaer, Solid Ground – Liquid to Solid in 85 years (2006), coloured plaster - 10 parts, picture courtesy the artist and doggerfisher, Edinburgh, © Serge Hasenböhler

David has been nominated for solo exhibition How do you Love Dzzzt by Mammy? – a title lacking clarity in line with his belief that "bit by bit, life robs you of certainty" – and Bulbous Marauder, which featured dell'arte-style creations, patterns and shadows stretching through darkened rooms.

"Weird is the simplest word for the art of Enrico David," wrote Guardian art oracle Jonathan Jones, reviewing David's debut show at London’s ICA in October 2007, before beginning his critique with precisely that description.

A picture of a church window

Richard Wright, No Title (2007), gold leaf on window. Picture courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, courtesy Gagosian Gallery, London / New York and The Modern Institute / Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow

Jones proceeded to accuse David of being "poised on the edge of a complete collapse into hysteria, tears and blind rage" as "the anti-hero of art in our time" in a five-star review, so his position on the judging panel should flush the artist with optimism.

It is Hiorns, though, who will sweep to victory if you’re a reader of the Telegraph, where Richard Dorment reckons the shortlist has "three good artists and one great one."

A picture of a grey wall

Richard Wright, No Title (2007), gouache on wall, Jardins Publics, Edinburgh International Festival. Commissioned by the Common Guild, Glasgow. Picture courtesy Gagosian Gallery, London / New York and The Modern Institute / Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow

The flamboyance of Hiorns' Seizure, drowning a South London bedsit in liquid copper sulphate which exploded into an illuminative blue bleed covering the walls, has the visual arrest of a Damien Hirst or Mark Wallinger.

"As happened with Wallinger a few years ago, the judges are going to find it awfully difficult not to give the prize to Hiorns because of the range, variety and ambition of his work," thundered Dorment, calling his triumph "a foregone conclusion".

A picture of fire coming out of a gutter

Roger Hiorns, Vauxhall (2003), steel, fire. Installation at Tate Britain, London (2003). Picture courtesy Tate Photography, David Lambert / Rod Tidman, © the artist and Tate, courtesy Corvi-Mora, London

If you fancy a long shot, according to Dorment, you should gamble on Skaer, who has said she walks "a line between documentation and symbolism" in works which "seek to question the way in which you read them".

Born in Cambridge but based in Scotland, she represented the country at the Venice Biennale in 2007, having been nominated for the Beck's Futures award as far back as 2003.

A picture of a blow up man on stilts

Enrico David, How Do You Love Dzzzzt by Mammy?, installation view Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel (2009). Picture courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Köln/Berlin

Using graphite as a principal material across large, unfurling paper canvasses loaded with images of the macabre and powerful political and emotive imagery, it actually seems as unappreciative as it is foolish to write Skaer off.

Fellow Glasgow nominee Richard Wright makes complex and intricate wall drawings, often taking on awkward locations with patterns, motifs and inspiration from abstract sources.

A picture of clown type figures holding batons

Enrico David, Bulbous Marauder (2008), gouache on paper. Picture courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Köln/Berlin

He's been nominated for work in the 55th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh and his exhibition at the Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh, credited as "subtle and exquisite" paintings by the Tate.

The Stuckists, an art collective who have demonstrated against the "media circus" they perceive the Turner as since 2000, wasted no time in slating the absence of figurative painting from the shortlist.

A picture of black stilts in a gallery

Lucy Skaer, Black Alphabet (2008), 26 dust coal sculptures. Picture courtesy the artist and doggerfisher, Edinburgh, © Serge Hasenböhler

"The Turner Prize has been dying for some time and has now flatlined," protested co-founder Charles Thomson, charging the Prize with showing "no heart or brain activity."

"The only interesting thing about the Turner Prize is how it manages to find such totally uninteresting artists every year," he added, having run out of badges embellished with "The Turner Prize is Crap" on them last year.

"It's a parody of art and impossible to give any serious consideration."

The four finalists will have their work displayed in an exhibition at Tate Britain opening on October 7 2009, with the winner announced live on Channel 4 at the same venue on December 7.

Eindhoven Van Abbemuseum Director Charles Esche, writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, Folkestone Triennial Curator Dr Andrea Schlieker and Tate Britain Director Stephen Deuchar comprise the rest of the deciding jury.

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