Manchester and Newcastle artists battle it out for Northern Art Prize 2009

By Culture24 Staff | 03 August 2009
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A picture of a machine with a bottle of whisky on top of it

Pavel Bûchler's You Don't Love Me (above) has been nominated for the Northern Art Prize this year. Pic © The Artist

Critics of the "reality art" ethic embodied by Anthony Gormley's One and Other project on the Fourth Plinth won't find much solace in the recently-unveiled shortlist of the Northern Art Prize 2009.

Announcing four artists who alternately broadcast sounds to ponds, capture the simple occurrence of everyday situations and focus on "collective social experience", the apparent swaying of the panel towards more participatory nominees seems implicit.

"Though there is evidence that many artists continue to work and create alone, the Northern Art Prize shortlist illustrates a growing trend to look beyond the solitude of the artists's studio and work with other artists and the public," said Prize Director Pippa Hale, launching the third year of the competition.

"It places a collaborative, participatory process at the heart of the picture, often interested in a social or historical context and in which the artist may have a limited control over the outcome."

A picture of newspapers and fanzines

Matt Stokes, These are the Days. Pic © The Artist

The levels of this public involvement and discarded control aren't actually as comparable with goings on in Trafalgar Square as they could have been – last year's winner, Liverpudlian Paul Rooney, was slated in some quarters for over-reliance on audience efforts in his installation works, a ploy none of the potential winners could realistically be accused of this time.

This year Merseyside misses out badly, with three of the finalists coming from Manchester and the fourth from Newcastle. Czech-born UK artist, lecturer and writer Pavel Bûchler deals in "making nothing happen" through sound art, and Rachel Goodyear captures normal life within unexpected contexts via emotionless drawings.

A picture of a painting of a green flower with red petals

Crowe and Rawlinson, The Four Horsemen. Pic © The Artist

Old Trafford pair Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson have been known to warn wildlife about the threat of the encroaching city by taking the sound of building sites to the Cheshire greenbelt, and also confined the celebration of a firework display to the walls of Liverpool's FACT Gallery.

The Geordie of the quartet, Matt Stokes, is a muso-artist – he made a pseudo-period folk music video inspired by a letter written by a Newcastle man in 1828, alongside a two-channel film exploring the subculture of punk in Austin, Texas.

A picture of a painting of two horses

Rachel Goodyear, Hoofprints. Pic © The Artist

"There is still evidence in this shortlist that traditional media has a place, but its subject matter will make audiences think twice," added Hale, although the concerted direction the Prize has taken doesn't seem to be a response to waning support – founding sponsors Logistik and Arup have again offered a £16,500 reward for the winner, along with £1,500 consolations for the runners-up.

Leeds Metropolitan University, who are also backing the contest for the first time, will have to make do without any fellow Yorkshiremen to support when the award is decided in January 2010.

Shortlisted work will be exhibited at Leeds Art Gallery from November 27 2009 – February 21 2010.

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