Wed, Dec 07, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Turner Prize goes to Martin Boyce

The artist was among the first students to graduate from Glasgow School of Art’s now renowned environmental art course

By Charlotte Higgins  /  The Guardian, LONDON

Martin Boyce’s winning entry to the Turner Prize is seen on display at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England. Boyce beat three other short-listed artists — Hilary Lloyd, Karla Black and George Shaw — to take home an award of US$40,000.

Photo: Reuters

Having sculpted a quietly atmospheric, lyrically autumnal installation as his entry for the 2011 Turner prize, Martin Boyce was presented with the US$40,000 award on Monday night at a ceremony at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, northern England.

Boyce, 44, is the third successive Turner winner either brought up or educated in Glasgow, following Susan Philipsz last year and Richard Wright in 2009, and he confirms the city’s now indelible importance to Britain’s art world.

The artist was born in Hamilton, and was among the first students to graduate from Glasgow School of Art’s now famous environmental art course. His year included Douglas Gordon, who won the prize in 1996, and Nathan Coley, short-listed in 2007.

The prize was handed to Boyce by photographer Mario Testino at the Gateshead gallery. It is the first time the Turner prize has been shown outside the Tate family of galleries, and only the second time outside London.

Boyce created an installation for the Turner that has the feel both of an interior space and a mournful municipal park. Trees (in fact, the pillars that support the gallery ceiling) loom, their geometric aluminum leaves dappling the light that is cast over the space. On the ground are scattered more leaves, this time cut from paper, each of them of the same rebarbative, angular shape.

There is a madly angular park bin, too. But there is also a desk, based on a library table by French modernist designer Jean Prouve, with letters scratched into it as if by a schoolchild. Much of the artistic vocabulary for Boyce’s installation derives from a modernist garden — complete with concrete trees — created by designers Joel and Jan Martel in Paris in 1925.

The judges praised his “opening up of a new sense of poetry,” while Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, not a member of the jury, commented: “He is an extraordinarily strong artist who has been steadily maturing over the past seven or eight years. He made an extremely strong show for the Venice Biennale in 2009 — and I am surprised he was not short-listed then. It is a strong choice.

“He has consistently reinvented the language of early modern art, and he is deeply engaged in that. But he makes work that does not depend on an understanding of early modern art: it is beautiful and arresting in its own right.”

Boyce was the bookies’ favorite for the prize, but many will be disappointed that George Shaw, 44, missed out.

Shaw, who is based in Devon, southwest England, paints the housing estate where he grew up near Coventry, skirting dangerously close to kitsch with his deadpan, affectless depictions of dreary side roads, locked-up shops, littered half-urban woods and derelict pubs — the depressing but utterly recognizable edge lands of suburban England.

He had been nominated for a solo exhibition at the Baltic earlier this year.

Karla Black, 38, is another short-listed artist who was educated at the Glasgow School of Art and is still based in the city. Nominated for an exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennale representing Scotland, her sculptures for the Turner show are simultaneously delicate and on a huge scale. Here are giant, rolled-up balls of sugar paper chalked over in ice-cream colors, “bath bombs” from a high-street toiletries chain and painted polyethylene sheets made to dangle from the ceiling by sticky tape.

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