December 9, 2009

OMG: A painter wins the Turner Prize


Turner Prize 2009: intricate gold leaf painting by Richard Wright. Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley

Painter Richard Wright won this year's Turner Prize for his elaborate, gold-leaf fresco almost covering one wall of the Tate Gallery. Wright creates subtle site-specific wall paintings that respond directly to the architecture setting. Often awkwardly placed in discreet locations, they combine graphic imagery and intricate patterning from sources as varied as medieval painting, graphics and typography.  Here are some excerpts from the critics' responses (via BBC)  to committee's selection.

Rachel Campbell-Johnson in The Times: A graffiti artist has taken this year's Turner Prize. It's the sort of announcement that would normally be expected to unleash a torrent of "call that art!" rants. But surely not this time? This year's shortlist reflects today's calmer mood. It is less about superficial appearance and more about the processes of looking. Wright suggests that we question the power of capitalist markets, perhaps. His murals cannot be owned. They will be painted over at the end of the exhibition. All that glitters is not sold in Wright's glimmering world.

Michael Glover in The Independent: The judges have once again opted for an art which pays homage to restrained, non-figurative patterning. Wright makes an art which alludes to the passing nature of life and the necessary impermanence of art. The whole enterprise, here on this wall, seems so tentative, as if it were a kind of effrontery to do any more. You could call his art minimalist. But it is also, for all its ethereal nature, luxurious in its way; a luxury that always threatens to pass away, and after a while does.

Adrian Searle in The Guardian: There have been no shocks and few real surprises in the 2009 Turner prize. Richard Wright's work still feels the strongest; and as a single installation, with a drawing rendered in gold leaf on the wall of an otherwise almost empty space, it is a joyous and tantalising experience. The real problem here is that only one woman, painter Tomma Abts, has won the prize this decade, the first woman to win since 1997. This imbalance needs to be addressed.

Richard Dorment in The Daily Telegraph: The announcement of Wright's Turner Prize win is what sports presenters call an upset. But not that much of an upset. Wright is a quieter, subtler artist, but one who is capable of producing works of incandescent, ethereal beauty. And here's a sentence I never thought I'd write about a Turner Prize winner: the result is so damn beautiful you stand transfixed in front of it. I'm sorry about [fellow nominee Roger] Hiorns but delighted for Wright.

Video: Wright talking about his work.

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