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Turner Prize 2011. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. 21 October – 5 January 2012

The Turner Prize functions as a summary of new developments in contemporary British art and the key word that links this year’s artists is the concept of fetishism – a course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment.  The shortlisted artists for the Turner Prize 2011 are currently, according to William Hills bookmakers, George Shaw at 4/5, Hilary Lloyd at 9/4, Karla Black at 7/2 and Martin Boyce at 10/1. Art and Money maybe synonymous for the art market but art punters should place their bets carefully as the judging works in mysterious ways. This year’s exhibition is at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead in partnership with Tate. This is the first time the Turner Prize has been presented beyond Tate’s galleries and there is a palpable pride and support in the north-east of England for an event that but had somehow lost its charisma in the London art maelstrom.

Hilary Lloyd shows films on LCD monitors – Shirt 2011, Tower Block 2011, Moon 2011 and Floor 2011. These are viewed at different heights and levels where the technical presentation of projectors, monitors and supports (including the routing of the wiring) is to be considered as a sculptural presence integral to the installation “as vital as the images themselves”. The screens show images of the moon (multi images on a two monitors); a wooden floor (three monitors), shirts (single images on two screens) and a tower block (multi images on a single screen). The works are promoted as being “hyper-aesthetic” about surface, texture, perception, observation, looking and seeing and the fetishism of repetition. The images are humdrum and while they may repay some time spent by the viewer to capture palimpsest moments of beauty there are more interesting narratives elsewhere.

George Shaw is the bookies favourite with a selection of eight fetishistic paintings of his autobiographical subject, the housing estate in the suburb of Tile Hill, Coventry, West Midlands, the Universe etc, where he grew up, is rendered in Humbrol enamel on wooden panels. The titles almost define the world of Crap Towns. Landscape with Dog Shit Bin, 2010 and The Age of Bullshit, 2010. The size of the paintings is based on a 20” TV screen, which defines the image and his view of the world as he grew up in conaburban Coventry. This is a world of anti-beauty, that was never pre-loved, and where seemingly, given the choice the planning and execution of vernacular suburban architecture will always be built in opposition to a refined Ruskinian aestheticism. So the viewer has to make an adjustment and learn to enjoy the functional and familiar sense of a distressed nonland, a wasteland, a middle land, a feral land of puddles on tarmac; shop shutters, broken railings, mossy and decaying sheds and the disintegrating part-messages of road markings. The artist refers to the poetry of TS Eliot and Philip Larkin (also from Coventry), as observers of a moral and physical wasteland.


Karla Black presents two works, Care In Words, 2011 and More Of The Day, 2011 in a fetishistic, process based environment concerned with sculpture and materials that is the most visceral and sensory of the installations, like being in a sensurround Odilon Redon pastel drawing. Entering through plastic sheets with the haphazard remnants of the paint attached, and more of it flaking off onto the floor. This is a roomscape, with a non-scented parma violets, rosewater floral bouquet of pastel shades of paper like the carapace of a discarded snakeskin. The pastel creates associations with baby clothes and soft coloured toiletries. Two sugar paper mounds have each been hand frotttaged with green and yellow pastel coloured school chalks. The floor has been left with the detritus of the process. There are other odd little clues to follow: Three piles of pastel coloured parcels in palest blue, pink and green; tied and knotted plastic bags in pink and blue shades; chalk coloured snowball sized spheres nestle in the paper; small intense test areas of chalk colours. The artist created the work in an intense solitary activity and she refers to the child psychologist Melanie Klein who was interested in the role of play as a form of emotional communication.

Martin Boyce’s group of works include Do Words Have Voices 2011, a sculpture inspired by a library table designed by Jean Prouvé for the Maison de l’Etudiant in Paris, and Beyond the Repetition of High Windows, Intersecting Flight Paths and Opinions (A Silent Storm is Painted on the Air), an architectural intervention made for the exhibition. Suspended from the ceiling, the leaf-like forms are drawn from the designs of Jöel and Jan Martel for the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. Boyce has created the most intellectual of the installations in the sense that it is possible to make sense of the artist’s clues and fetishistic references to the history of Modernist design through the work that satisfyingly creates a dialogue to itself and the space. For this installation, the concrete trees of Joel and Jan Martel reappear as graphic motifs and as quasi-Etruscan typefaces developed by the artist. The room contains a series of interrelated objects that repeat the lozenge shapes in the form of a table, bin, typography, mobile and other elements. A rectangular 8×4’ picture with the title Petrified Songs created typographically with metal letters echoes works by Frank Stella and Joe Tilson; a ceiling of white painted coated aluminium fins echoes iconic modern Italian design; a wooden rhomboid library desktop set within a steel frame and scratched with the artist’s invented alphabet references a Jean Prouvé design; a Calderesque mobile with perforated triangular sails/leaves in shades of black, blue, pink, yellow and green; a red distorted rhomboid waste bin with a fabric liner; four mock air vents are set in the wall echoing the art-deco typography; 100 or so brown paper leaves scattered on the floor are an origami version of the ceiling fins.

The winner of the prize will be announced on 5 December 2011 during a live broadcast of the award ceremony on Channel 4. This year’s £25,000 prize is sponsored by Channel 4, with £5,000 each for the other shortlisted artists. The prize is awarded to a British artist under fifty for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding 4 April 2011. The winner will be decided by a jury of Katrina Brown, Director, The Common Guild, Glasgow; Vasif Kortun, Platform Garanti, Istanbul; Nadia Schneider, freelance curator; Godfrey Worsdale, Director, BALTIC and Penelope Curtis, Director of Tate Britain and Chair of the Jury. Turner Prize 2011 is connected by Nokia, presented by Channel 4 and supported by NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Arts Council England.

Turner Prize 2011 Exhibition. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead. NE8 3BA. Open daily 10.00 – 18.00 except Tuesdays 10.30 – 18.00. Admission free. 21 October 2011 – 8 January 2012.


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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