Turner Prize 2019: shortlist announced

The much-anticipated artist shortlist for the Turner Prize 2019 has been announced this week. Every two years the prize moves away from London, with the current exhibition taking place in Margate.

This year, all the nominated artists are under 50 and traditional painting barely makes an appearance. Instead, futuristic sculpture and a plethora of recorded voices dominate the shortlist. Rachel Campbell Johnston, reviewing the shortlist for The Times, noted that “listening, it seems, has taken the place of looking”.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, a Beirut-based “audio investigator”, makes films, installations and performative lectures based on earwitness accounts. His work focuses on oppressed individuals and uses sound to explore “the collective acoustic unconscious” in relation to our inability to adequately express what we hear.

Helen Cammock is also interested in the power of sound, in particularly the testimony of our voices to recount history. The London-based artist’s films and spoken word performances tackle the deluge of accounts created by past events. Her previous work delves into the histories of Bloody Sunday in Selma, the Caribbean sugar trade and the controversial British politician, Enoch Powell.

Fellow Londoner Tai Shani explores the purpose and manipulation of the written word, depending on the author’s gender or perceived status. Her often surreal theatrical performances and installations mix sculpture and the moving human body. These alternative, erotic and almost sci-fi pieces blur the line between reality and fantasy.

Columbian-British artist Oscar Murillo is the most well-known nominee on the shortlist, having shot to fame in his 20’s six years ago. After a brief hiatus from the art world, Murillo is back with his semi-abstract sculptural paintings. His un-stretched canvases and installations are, by any means, a long way from traditional painting. Murillo’s work is highly personal, reflecting themes of nomadism and exile.

Yet, Campbell Johnston has heavily criticised the shortlist, declaring it “the most visually dull, imaginatively unadventurous, politically obedient and joylessly worthy shortlist that I can remember”.

The recent announcement was also clouded by issues surrounding the prize’s partnership with Stagecoach South East. Yesterday, the Turner Prize ended a sponsorship deal with the local bus company over chairman Sir Brian Souter’s anti-LGBT views.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the partnership. Nearly 20 years ago, Sir Brian backed a failed campaign to ban teachers discussing gay rights in Scottish schools.

In a statement, Turner Contemporary and the Tate Gallery emphasised that “The Turner Prize celebrates the creative freedoms of the visual arts community and our wider society.”

The exhibition will be at the Turner Contemporary, Margate, from 28 September 2019 to 12 January 2020. On 3 December 2019, the winner of the £40,000 price will be announced at a ceremony broadcast by the BBC.

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