The Turner Prize 2011 opens into a room bathed in warm light. Angular white fins cut across the room, suspended from a metal lattice, neatly hung below the ceiling, precisely filtering light on to the work of Martin Boyce.
The fins, the lights, the ventilation grills, the paraffin paper leaves that scatter across the floor are all work by the artist, who has embraced this white space and used all of its idiosyncrasies to complete his work.
Boyce uses Modernist design as his palette; Baltic Curator Laurence Sillars describes it as “poetry spun out of graphic design”.
The result is the feeling that you are walking through an autumnal urban park, populated by worn relics that purport to luxury but have been weather beaten by loneliness and aspiration.
As with all Turner Prize shows there is a route through the exhibition. You are led by the architecture of the divided gallery space through each artist’s presentation.
Baltic has not differed from the Tate’s convention in this respect, but walking into Hilary Lloyd’s space you are met with the striking vista of the River Tyne, looking out in the distance to the Byker Wall, and you know precisely where you are.
The world Lloyd has constructed snaps us out of the reverie of Boyce. Here we are confronted with grids of AV equipment, bright white screens which slowly, mesmerically reveal their images.
These images are not stable; they are fluid, the video camera used like a pencil or paintbrush, moving across the subject sensually and unhindered.
Lloyd undermines the conventions of seeing that we take for granted, she chooses what we see and how we see it, right down to the equipment on which she presents the work and how it is constructed in the gallery space.
It results in a physically challenging experience, where the work sits outside of an easy eye-line.
In the next space, Karla Black offers a possibility of escape. This fantasy land populated with delicate pastel hues and the soft smell of powdered chalk on sugar paper hills ebbs and flows through the room.
The tactile materiality of the contoured sculptural forms sits in opposition to the fragility of the work, which is immediately altered by the presence of the visitor scuffling through the chalk on the floor. Most of the work will need to be destroyed in order to remove it from the gallery.
Visually and materially reminiscent of her Venice Biennale installation this work creates a wholly different feel as we are invited to walk under the sculpture. On the other side, enclosed by a sugar paper mound, pastel parcels sit beneath a fall of cellophane and bath bombs are discarded into the folds of chalk dust.
George Shaw is a painter, and as such his room is not an installation. It feels very different after the immersive environments the other artists have created. But that is just an immediate impression.
It isn’t long before you are being drawn directly into the paintings, each one the size of the TV screen that used to sit in his family home. The place in which he grew up is central to Shaw’s work; all his Humbrol enamel paintings are of Tile Hill estate in Coventry.
Shaw’s paintings exude memory, narratives that would otherwise be considered too banal to be re-told. ‘Landscape with Dog Shit Bin’ features a large puddle in a crossroads, and a dog waste bin sited at the exit to a wooded landscape. ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ depicts a burnt tree in an urban wood, evoking many a bored suburban teenager’s rite of passage.
The Turner Prize has been out of London before – at Tate Liverpool in 2007 – but this is the first time outside of the Tate and it feels significant. Importantly it means the exhibition is free, and it will have a new audience, many of whom may never have seen a Turner Prize show before.
It is also part of All Points North - a collaborative initiative set up to highlight the wealth of contemporary art happening in the north of England this autumn – which, by its very existence, shows the strength of the art scene here.
Talking to artists and art activators from the North East at lunch after the press preview made me realise how important this moment is for the ecology of the art scene in the north. The spotlight has turned to Newcastle and Gateshead and those that have been working hard to build a successful regional art scene here are intending to reap as much reward as they can from it.
This review was commissioned by All Points North and will also appear on their website: http://www.allpointsnorth.info/artist-stories
All Points North: Turner Prize 2011 Review by Lucy Bannister is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at lucybannister.tumblr.com.
The Turner Prize 2011 show continues at BALTIC, Gateshead, until 8th Jan, 2012
Read Chris Sharratt's review for Creative Times here
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