Tate Britain
United Kingdom

Controversy, travesty and distaste: three words to describe the overall feeling of this prestigious prize over the last twenty-six years since its origin. Now considered to be one of the most important art prizes in the world the Turner Prize (so named after artist J. M. W. Turner), has raised much debate has been generated due to previous nominees, previous winners, work submitted and the prize money. However, this year proved rather peaceful in terms of the nominees’ subject matter, work and the nominees themselves.

Ángela de la Cruz, whose shattered work, described as ‘canvases behaving badly’ felt like a breath of fresh air to the confusing and downright mesmerising films of The Otolith Group, grouped with the down-to-earth Classic-esque ‘portraits without sitters’ paintings by Dexter Dalwood and the simplistic aural installation by Susan Philipsz.

Admittedly there is no “stunt” to be seen (says Rachael Campbell-Johnston in The Times) but exactly for that reason, the exhibit may be enjoyed with the same peace that would appeal to the wider public and Dalwood’s “perfectly ordinary oil canvases” do just that. But a piece like Burroughs in Tangiers (2005) is so much more than just a Dalwood painting: it is a reference to Robert Rauschenberg who passed away in 2008 and was probably one of the great definitive artists of the twentieth century. History painting is rewritten as Dalwood depicts the title’s subject matter… without a single figure. Dalwood is likely more valid than The Otolith Group in the art world in the next room, as this nominee is ambiguous and perplexing. The group emphasize that their films are not video art, so is the public meant to believe they are watching and interpreting the likes of another George Lucas and Steven Spielberg filmmaking dynamic duo?! Luckily, Ángela de la Cruz followed soon after and her truly unique assemblages of shattered canvases were “an intriguing hybrid” of sculpture and painting (says Waldemar Januszczak in The Sunday Times). The monochrome designs on canvas and their eventual fates seem to question the need of the Futurists to burn down the museums and libraries and invent truly original Modern art, whilst having a somewhat religious tone to their shapes and occupations with space. Then there is always the fourth and final artist of the exhibit: Susan Philipsz, the sound artist. Philipsz “gives de la Cruz a run for her money”? (says Januszczak). Yes the haunting ballads Philipsz harmonises in her chosen environments (notably Scottish bridges) are different and Philipsz is now the first Sound artist to be nominated for the prize, but somehow the space she occupies in the exhibit is too empty and plain. Painting the public a picture physically is more worthwhile than doing so with your voice. This artist might be more suited for the X-Factor than the show as it occurs to a lot of us that a piece under bridges does not really qualify as an exhibition of work as placing paintings or sculptures in a gallery.

It is for these reasons that either Dalwood or de la Cruz feel more worthy of the prize this year even if history could be made again with Philipsz becoming one of the few women to win the prize or even the first Sound artist but that could prove just the “stunt” to raise hullabaloo.