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Review: Turner Prize 2005 by the Artfinder

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 3:08 am    Post subject: Review: Turner Prize 2005 by the Artfinder Reply with quote

Review: Turner Prize 2005 - better late than never

"...I finally managed to get to see the Turner Prize Exhibition at Tate Britain this week. In fact I went to see it twice; to give me some thinking time away from the work, and then come back to it after a while. I thought the standard this year was pretty high, and I was more impressed than I thought I would be with the work of Simon Starling, the eventual winner.

Having read about the body of work that Darren Almond had been nominated for, and seen some bits of it on the videos in the resource room at the end of the exhibition, I was slightly disappointed that he only showed one piece, his large multimedia video installation - but I guess that is the limitation of having one room only per artist.

I also felt that Gillian Carnegie and Jim Lambie’s rooms totally justified my decision not to review or comment to any great extent until I have stood in front of (or in Lambie’s case, on top of) the art itself. Art appreciation/criticism/reviewing/whatever is simply not something that can be done at a distance.

Do I think the judges made the right decision? Maybe, I’m not sure yet. The four artists are so varied in their approaches to subject and medium that it is difficult to find fair points of comparison. I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye out for all four of them in the future.

So, onto the review itself (this will also go up onto my site once I’ve managed to upload it to the right section, I’ll let you know when I’ve figured that one out).

Simon Starling.

As you walk through the doors to the Turner Prize exhibition, the first thing you encounter is the side of Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No. 2). It’s been placed so close to the doors that you can’t avoid it, or disregard it. You are forced to either confront it as it is, or turn to the left where the accompanying text is emblazoned across the wall. To do this with a piece of work that for many people is ‘just a shed’ seems to me to be a piece of curatorial finesse. You simply cannot dismiss out of hand something that you have to walk around – it has already had an effect.

But let’s get onto the work itself. It’s a shed, yes, but it’s not just a shed. I’ve been coming to the conclusion for a while now that all art is both conceptual and representational; that what you have with the painting or sculpture, (or indeed shed) is a representation of the artist’s thoughts, or concepts. The art doesn’t lie in the physical work itself, but in the spaces between artist the work and the onlooker. Simon Starling’s work is a good example of this, because the final work seems at first to bear little relation to what most people know as ‘art’ – it is, after all, just a shed.

Starling’s work is concerned with ideas about transformation, process and change. While on the one hand you find journeys and pilgrimages throughout the work, there is also a certain circularity to it all which undermines the idea of change and brings a level of absurd futility to some of the processes. In Shedboatshed he finds a shed, takes it apart, uses bits of it to build a boat and then transports the rest of the shed down river to a point where he takes the boat apart and rebuilds the shed (as best he can anyway; you can see the effects of boatbuilding in the reconstructed structure). In the photographic work (One Ton, II), on the far wall, we see 5 identical platinum/palladium prints. The text on the wall tells us that, because platinum is so diffuse amongst the metal ore, a ton of platinum ore must be extracted from the earth to create the few ounces of platinum needed to produce 5 prints of this size, and for the subject of the print Starling has chosen, obviously, an open-cast platinum mine in South Africa where you can see the miners working, extracting the ore which will become the platinum which will be used to produce the prints of the photographs of the platinum mine.

You look at the shed and the photographs and you begin to wonder what has been gained from all of these self-referential journeys, the eternal question ‘why?’ comes to mind, and often springs to the lips. And, you know what? I think that may be the point of Starling’s work.

Darren Almond

As you move from the first brightly lit room into the second, darkness embraces you. Darren Almond’s multimedia video installation, If I Had You, comprises 4 screens and a number of audio tracks.

The work was shot during a visit to Blackpool with Almond’s grandmother. Blackpool is where his grandparents had their honeymoon, but his grandmother hadn’t been back there since her husband had died 20 years before. On two of the screens we have images that represent the passage of time, but also the promise of some future potential. One features a brightly lit fountain, with water evoking refreshment and eternal youth, but equally something that is very much in the now and difficult to hold onto for very long.

The next screen features an illuminated windmill, the turning of the sails marking the passage of time, but also harnessing an unseen power to produce something of sustenance. There is of course a level of pathos to be found in the fact that this windmill grinds no grain for bread, and indeed the sails are turned not by the wind, but by a mechanical process. The windmill is accompanied by a creaking soundtrack as each neon trimmed sail revolves around the central point.

On the opposite wall we see the feet of two dancers at the tower ballroom, we don’t know who they are, but we can watch as they move across the dance-floor in harmony with each other, they are accompanied by a gentle piano soundtrack and in each corner of the room you can discern the shuffling of dancers foot against the floor -it’s all slightly hypnotic.

The largest of the screens features a close up film of Almond’s grandmother as she watches the dancers move around the floor. While we cannot directly see what she sees we can clearly see the effect it has on her. Her face is contemplative, sometimes joyful, and sometimes full of longing and sadness as she delights in remembering her honeymoon, and then feels the lack of the husband that she shared the honeymoon with.

It’s a remarkably intimate piece, which allows us into the very private world of this widow while letting us consider the big questions in life; questions about the passage of time, about relationships, about loss, vulnerability and nostalgia.

Gillian Carnegie

Moving from darkness into light we come into Gillian Carnegie’s room. This is an artist absorbed by the medium in which she works. Carnegie works in the art historical tradition of landscape, portrait, and still life as far as subject matter is concerned, but her approach to these subjects is far from traditional. Paint is often applied thickly to the canvas, and often in a very delicate wash which allows the texture of the material to show through – and it is not uncommon for both of these techniques to be used in the same painting. The work draws you in and attracts you, but at the same time holds you at arms length through constant reminders that you are looking at a painting, a construct.

Carnegie’s black paintings are utterly compelling woodland scenes painted entirely in black. The heavy use of paint builds up the gnarled trunk of the tree, and the delicate blades of grass, in relief. These are paintings which demand movement from the viewer, almost like a sculpture. You have to move from left to right and back again, to get up close to see the brushstrokes and to pull back to see the overall composition. Carnegie controls the viewer with these paintings, refusing to allow us to become a passive observer of something merely visual.

Here again we come to the question about where the art is. In the case of Carnegie’s paintings the image is only part of the equation. The photographs of her work in the catalogue and in the press can only ever be poor representations. They do not allow you to observe from more than one point, they reduce the paintings to their content alone, and that in turn prevents us from being controlled and manipulated by painting and painter - And that is to our disadvantage.

Jim Lambie

If Gillian Carnegie’s room appears to be traditional at first glance, Jim Lambie’s room is anything but. As you cross into the room, words like ‘fabulous’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘Oooh look at the shiny things’ spring to mind. Lambie takes the everyday, mundane, ephemera of life and turns it into something gorgeous. Strictly speaking you don’t cross into the room, you cross into the work itself, because Lambie owns the space in a completely different way to the other artists. He claims it as his own.

The floor is covered by black and white sticky tape, alternating, and creating the impression that someone has put all the bits of a jigsaw back together, but not quite in the right order – this is heightened by the fact that the tape is exactly the same width as the floor-boards underneath. On the end wall is a silhouette of the band The Kinks (after whom the installation is based), doubled over so it looks a bit like a Rorschach ink blot, and as you approach it, you realise that the black isn’t painted, and isn’t quite regular, but is infact made up of various black (and very nearly black) t-shirts, stretched over the outline of the band, with seams and hems criss-crossing all over the place.

In amongst this monochrome there are 3 bird ornaments, much like could be found in a local charity shop, or on your great aunt’s mantelpiece, except these have been blown up, so they are 3ft tall! Each one has been treated with paint in a different way, one is covered in black glossy paint which drips down the side of the mirrored plinth that it stands on, one sits in a pool of deep red paint (complete with mirrored handbags) and the final one has been liberally spray painted in a number of gaudy colours (which also coat the floor around it) and then sat on top of the cans which contained the paint.

There is something about the relationship between the birds, the paint, the floor and the silhouette that reminds me of Hitchcock, but the overall effect of the room is exhilarating not threatening, it is a sensory overload, a visceral experience. The mirrors incorporated in the work further involve the viewer, making them a part of the work, even as they walk over it. The work is transformed by people being there and interacting with it, we are no longer objective viewers, nor are we manipulated to see the work as Lambie wants us to (as we are with Carnegie) but we become part of the subject itself.

There is a discourse in Lambie’s that concerns the temporary and the permanent, and other questions of time, context and beauty, but it is, to a certain extent, supplementary to the hit of pleasure you get as you wander amongst the shapes and colours, which suggest that he has a slightly odd fairground going on in his mind. To misquote a fairly famous advertising campaign – you know when you’ve been Lambied!"

Lydia Bates (the Artfinder)
The Artfinder Blog - http://www.art2008.co.uk/blog/

Featured Links:
The Turner Prize 2005 - http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize/2005/

{See Full article here >> See http://www.art2008.co.uk/blog/?p=42}
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