Turner Prize 2011

  • 21 October 2011

As the Turner Prize exhibition opens at BALTIC in Gateshead today, Louisa Buck talks to the four artists who are in the running to win this year's award...

As the Turner Prize exhibition opens at BALTIC in Gateshead today, Louisa Buck talks to the four artists who are in the running to win this year's award...

George Shaw

For over 15 years George Shaw has been making paintings of the post-war housing estate just outside Coventry where he grew up. Quite why he keeps returning to his childhood haunts to recreate these glum views of boarded-up windows, muddy paths, broken fences and rubbish-strewn kerbs, the 45-year-old artist, who now lives in Dorset, is not altogether sure. ‘It was one of those things that I didn’t mean to do, it’s just taken over, sometimes against my will’, he says. ‘Even quite recently I’ve been thinking that everything I must have said about this piece of work must surely be over and done with, but it’s like a plant that looks as if it is dead but then every year produces new blooms which I keep on picking.’ The way in which Shaw goes about making these scenes of what he describes as ‘back places, places that weren’t designed, that weren’t on the plan’ is not as traditional as their painted outcome. ‘They have their origins in walking and photographing’, he reveals. ‘It’s almost like a hunting job for me. I go out with a camera, I stalk and then I take a couple of snapshots and bring them back to the studio.’

Hilary Lloyd

‘I am very excited by the power of a job done really well’, declares 46-year-old London-based Hilary Lloyd, whose videos and slide installations present such seemingly humdrum subjects as a car wash, a motorcycle mechanic’s workshop, waiters in Venice’s Caffè Florian and a young man very slowly removing his vest. ‘When I’m actually filming something it’s very exciting – for me it’s really thrilling to be in a car wash for weeks on end; they are amazing places.’ This enthusiasm and engagement with her subjects extends equally to inanimate objects. One of the most powerful works at the solo show in London’s Raven Row Gallery, for which Lloyd received her Turner Prize nomination, was Motorway, a projected row of four views of a steel girdered motorway bridge, animated by an ambient rumble of traffic and the occasional shower of sparks from an arc welder’s torch. ‘Standing in front of the motorway and shooting this very expectant steel structure was really powerful’, she recalls. ‘It felt so desperate, waiting to be unleashed in all its state-of-the-art engineering right over a road and a whole North-South dividing railway.’

Karla Black

When Karla Black took over the Palazzo Pisani as Scotland’s representative at the Venice Biennale this summer she created a dizzying, all-encompassing environment of eight interconnected rooms containing a vivid succession of sculptures made from sus-pended swags and ruffles of painted polythene, stratified layers of topsoil, giant blocks of soap and huge swathes of crinkled sugar paper with surfaces powdered in pink, pistachio, creamy yellow and baby blue. ‘The things I am mostly concerned about are colour, form and material’, says the 38-year-old Glasgow-based artist, ‘I work with physical reality. It’s very basic.’ Although Black’s physical reality can include fake tan, hairspray, foundation and eye shadow, she insists there is nothing gender-specific to be read into the fact that often her materials can be sourced more easily from the cosmetics counter than the art supply shop. ‘I don’t see the difference between topsoil and plaster or makeup’, she says. ‘I don’t differentiate between the cultural and the natural. Maybe some are a little further down the manufacturing process than others, but basically they are all just bits of the world.’

Martin Boyce

Past and present, art and design, the utilitarian and the aesthetic come together to mix, morph and mutate in the sculpture of Martin Boyce, which takes as its starting point design classics by such mid-20th-century masters as Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames and Jean Prouvé, and then reconfigures elements from these iconic objects into his own distinctive language. ‘I’m trying to avoid nostalgia … you’re looking at something from the past, but I want to bring it into the here and now and see what effect time has had on that’, says the 43-year-old artist, who also reveals that in his most recent work, ‘I’ve been looking at ways of distressing objects so they look as if they’ve been lost or abandoned or just found in a garden outside – I like a bit of broken.’

The winner will be announced on 5 December 2011.

Enjoy a special discount of 10% with your National Art Pass in BALTIC’s Six Restaurant during the Turner Prize exhibition.