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May 6, 2013 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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Turn(ering) Me On

Named after renowned painter J. M. W. Turner, the Turner Prize has annually been awarded to a British visual artist and has received its fair share of media attention since its inception in 1984, often being cited at Britain’s most publicised award for art. The Turner’s status owes itself to the controversy it has garnered over the years, with its artistic credibility often debated—the 2001 winner Martin Creed’s aptly named piece The Lights Going On and Off consisted of a room with its lights going on and off (a protesting artist rebutted by throwing eggs at the room’s walls). This has led to the likes of Prince Charles commenting “…the dreaded Turner Prize, it has contaminated the art establishment for so long”. However, other celebrities have continually been involved on the supportive side of the prize, with Yoko Ono, Madonna and Jude Law being guest presenters in previous years.

The nominees for this year’s Turner Prize were announced late in April, with the artists and their work being as different to each other as possible:


Based in Glasgow, David Shrigley is best known for his dark, sardonic yet strangely relatable cartoons, which most people have probably come across at some point on the internet. He also goes largely unacknowledged for his work with musicians, including directing music videos for Prince and Blur, as well as collaborations with Franz Ferdinand, David Byrne and Hot Chip. His dark wit has since spread to his considered pieces which include a taxidermy dog holding a protest sign declaring “I’m dead”, a grocery list etched upon a tombstone, and a “For Sale” sign planted in a river. Of all the nominees, Shrigley is the most accessible and most easily enjoyed—a quick Google search is likely to win one over.


Being compared to Manet and Degas, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is the first black woman to be nominated for the Turner Prize. Her figurative oil paintings are all subtly expressive and unique in their personal tones. On top of having recently achieved trans-Atlantic attention through numerous New York exhibits, her nomination has the romanticism of re-establishing the relevance of oil painting in modern art.


This London-based artist finds her focus upon mixed-media and video pieces, and has previously won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Her films are full of surrealist imagery—strawberries, pineapples, car windows. Unsettling spookiness seems to be her speciality—her audio piece Grand Dad, composed of her whispers and static, is hard to listen to in its entirety. This isn’t to say this is all Prouvost can do—light-hearted quirk is seen with her penchant for butts which cheekily recur through the entirety of her visual pieces and become the focus of a series of paintings.


Tino Sehgal sees in just the second time performance art has been considered for the Turner. Sehgal has perhaps been the most debated of the nominees due to the immaterial nature of his work which cannot be sold, touched, or even sometimes seen. He is most famous for his constructed experiences, one of these being last year’s These Associations in London’s Tate Modern. For this, Sehgal
orchestrated 50 people to wander among the visiting public, sometimes walking, sometimes dancing, sometimes talking to individuals and sharing chilling emotional stories from stranger to stranger. His refusal to make any art that has a physical form sets him apart from the other three nominees and has made him a popular vote among critics.

A dark cartoonist, an oil painter, an eerie filmmaker and a public performance artist—the group of nominees is generously representative and excitingly diverse. While the usual criticisms of the Turner are sure to reawaken in December when the winner is announced, the one thing that this year’s Turner cannot be labelled is boring.

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