Ah, the Turner Prize… That time of the year when contemporary art nominates four exciting, thought-provoking artists for one if its most prestigious awards, and the wider public gets to tilt its head to one side and say, ‘I don’t get it.’
And there’s plenty of opportunity to be both impressed and baffled in this new presentation at Tate Britain of work from the four artists nominated as their work is challenging, thought-provoking and as button-pushing as ever. However, there is – in my humble opinion – one artist whose work stands out.
First up as you enter the exhibition is Helen Marten. Helen’s work looks to challenge our ready-made world, creating installations from handmade and found objects drawn from daily life, such as cotton buds, marbles, eggs, snooker chalk and snakeskin. Individually we recognise and understand the items; but when brought together in collage-like creations, they become new to us again. What are they? It’s a bit of a game, bit of a riddle, but compels us to challenge the world we see around us in a new light.
I have to say, I’m a big fan of Helen’s work but I think her work currently on display at the Serpentine Gallery (closing November 20, 2016) is a better reflection of her talents. Nevertheless, I love her playfulness and I particularly liked the caterpillar-esque sculptural piece.
Next up is Anthea Hamilton with what is, unquestionably, the most Instagrammed works from the exhibition. A giant bottom greets you to your left, whilst to the right, the gallery wall is covered with bricks wallpaper and a patterned suit swings on a washing line in front of it, its pattern almost camouflaging it into the wall.
Anthea’s lens through which to see the world is intriguing, and I particularly loved the design of her works, including the knickers on washing line in a gallery transformed into the blue sky on a clear day.
Josephine Pryde up next, and though we can’t ride her scale model of a Class 66 locomotive and carriages (The New Media Express in a Temporary Siding) we can admire the tagging along its carriages by graffiti artists from the cities in which the train has previously been exhibited.
These three artists are excellent in their challenge to the boundaries we have for what constitutes art, but it is the last display that makes the biggest impact. And is the one with the clearest political message, in a time when we are going through seismic political changes.
Michael Dean has covered the floor of his gallery with pennies. The reason? To draw attention to poverty in the UK. The work, The United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016, consists of £20,436 in pennies as this is the amount the UK government has declared the minimum that two adults and two children need to survive for a year in the UK. Only when installing this work, Michael removed one coin, meaning that what we witness is one penny less than the poverty line. Powerful.
This year’s winner will be announced on December 5th, and, frankly, if Michael Dean’s name isn’t read out, well, he’d have pretty good reason to feel a bit miffed.
Turner Prize 2016, Tate Britain, London to January 2, 2017
Admission £10.90 (concessions available)
All installation images by me.