For the benefit of those who don’t know – because anyone connected with or interested in British contemporary art certainly should – for the first time in its 27 year history, our prestigious Turner Prize (in partnership with its usual home, Tate) was organised by a provincial gallery, in this case Gateshead’s Baltic, which stands on the south side of the river Tyne opposite Newcastle’s bustling and vibrant Quayside. I went in the evening, when the collection of fine bridges, lit from below in a spectrum of changing colours or silhouetted against the darkening sky, teamed with Norman Foster’s massive and undulating Sage concert hall – refered to locally as The Slug – lit from within, and the myriad of Christmas lights, illuminated the sluggish black river.
Having read a bit about the show I was familiar with first prize winner, sculptor Martin Boyce’s work, but whenever I read in an exhibition review that the work ‘must be seen in the flesh to be properly appreciated,’ I agree and at the same time become sceptical.
Each short-listed artist was alloted a large room in which to display their work. All four – except perhaps George Shaw, whose dull enamel paintings illustrating themes of urban decay, of which similar ground has been presented time and time again in photography over the last twenty odd years, all similarly sized are hung with anally minded, precisely equal space between them – had used the space to dramatic effect.
The evening viewing was well timed with regard to seeing Hilary Lloyd’s film work. One floor to ceiling wall of the room is clear glass and brought the lights of Gateshead’s urban environment inside to combine with the starkly modern, hard-edged, AV equipment used to display the artist’s sensual and intriguing, moving and still images. By complete contrast, Karla Black’s giant, pastel, paint and powder-covered, crumpled sheets of paper and transparent polythene is a riot of mad abandon.
Boyce’s work had certainly looked rather dull and the elements disparate in the photo I saw, but even with a file of visitors passing through the sculptural installation – comprising of a deconstructed desk with Calderesque mobile draped over it, the skewed waste bin, the hanging, white, jagged geometric shapes partially covering the ceiling, the similarly geometric brown, translucent paper shapes, like fallen leaves littering the extremities of the floor, and what is reminiscent of an art deco ventilation cover – the diverse elements remain separate and equally combine as a complete environment. It moved and held me, which is what I require from any art piece: a justified winner.
Also showing at Baltic
The Voyage of Growth & Discovery | Mike Kelley and Michael Smith
The only UK presentation of American artists’ collaboration. A massive, multi-facetted, theatrical crowd-pleaser, with adult themes, cuddly toys and subtle humour, based around Nevada’s Burning Man Festival – taking up the whole of the fourth floor. Until 15th January, 2012
Section Yellow | Bani Abidi
The Pakistani artist, uses photography, video and drawing to explore manifestations of power and resilience within the modern Pakistani state. Until 12th February, 2012
Image: The river Tyne. Evening view towards the Sage concert hall through the Millenium bridge. December 2011. Captured by Pedro Silmon on a Nokia 6300 mobile phone
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