Turner Prize Review

Turner Prize 2016 Review- Pamela Naidoo

In the true nature of The Turner Prize, one ponders the enigma of whether aesthetically impressive sculptures and complicated installations feature concepts beneath the clay and careful arrangement. One can, however, validate the evident success of the exhibition by its recent addition; the allowance of photography. Here, a new tier appears in the presentation of the work, by no longer limiting it to the confines of the gallery. Through doing this, the curators must now supply to a new demographic- presenting: the social commentary of The Turner Prize, 2016.

The unveiling of Michael Dean, Anthea Hamilton, Helen Marten and Josephine Pryde’s works in this years prize, held at the Tate Britain from September 27th, is accessorised with the addition of social media coverage by its side. Whilst the concept behind displaying oversized anatomy in a brickwork room is subjective, the visually pleasing nature of Hamilton’s exhibition results in an objective inclination to mindlessly pose in front of the sculpture, in a slight state of confusion, before posting the picture of every social media platform. Here, one begins to connect the dots of the social commentary that is portrayed through this year’s four shortlisted artists’ work- pleasing the masses. For those not willing to pay the £12 entry fee, all is not lost. Simply searching the hashtag ‘tateturnerprize’ will now give the full guided tour of all that the exhibition had to offer.

Whilst the initial physical presence of any piece of work is unsurprisingly what strikes one first, for the experience to begin and end at the sensory understanding of the art, leaves a sense of disappointment. With reference to Dean’s display, featuring corrugated iron bordering a pool of brass pennies, the experience feels suspiciously interactive. A noticeable lack of clarity between where one can step without disrupting the composition is somewhat unnerving, when made aware that you’re in the middle of £20,436 worth of valued copper. Dean’s representation of living one coin below the poverty line is intriguing in its clinically pristine layout- complete with sterile lighting and bright white floors- the perfect colour pallet for an instagram post. Once again, the convenience of the aestheticism portrays how the nature of this year’s prize is themed largely towards millennials, broadening the accessibility of the work whilst reducing the conceptual complexity. It all seems rather too tempting to drop another coin onto the copper mound and undermine the surface level depth of the piece.

Evidence that the exhibition was curated as a competition and not a cohesive display is most clearly presented in the diversity of lighting throughout the space. Beginning with Marten’s disordered placement of being directly by the entrance, shadows irregularly fall over her equally irregular archaic themed sculptures. Chronologically moving through the displays, the lighting becomes highly saturated to accompany the bright red brick and pink toned theme of Hamilton’s first room. Continuing through, a naturalistic shade shines on cloud dotted skies before panning onwards to a drop in both light and visual stimulation- Josephine Pryde’s ‘A Fun Ride To Nowhere’. Here, a sepia tone pours over the frames of indirect photography and an immobile model train. The ambiguity of the subject of each photograph leaves uncertainty in one’s comprehension, much like its being presented in what feels like a room of only shadowy corners. The juxtaposition of light between Pryde and Dean’s collections is refreshing, until the clinical light begins to obtrusively shine off the sculptural portrayal of the metallic poverty line- the ‘eyes’ of the sheet metal family almost squinting in defence.

Despite the poorly lit exhibiting of her display, Pryde’s work still appears to be overlooked by those already aware of her previous shows. A downgrade from what was once an interactive experience for the observer, by riding the train ‘to nowhere’, Pryde has chosen to configure the display in a stagnant form, with the only evidence of life being the shining headlights of the downsized model. Whilst it is conceivable that this reduction of flamboyance is symbolic of the artist’s attitude towards an accurate representation of modern expressionism, an overly evaporated outcome appears to have attempted to fill the shoes of its predecessor with minimal success. Any attempt to submerse the observer in the presentation of the work was lost in the uniformity of the images bordering the room. Each one in crate-like frames to border the distant macro shots lack distinguished assertion in their hazy presentation.

A rising issue throughout this year’s exhibition is each work’s desperation to appear as a bigger talking point than that before it. A misguided competitiveness is sensed whilst moving through the overwhelming lighting and anticlimactic use of space which, whilst adhering to the themes of each artist, breaks apart the exhibition as an all encompassing experience.


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