Turner Prize 2019 shortlist announced at Tate Britain
Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani have been shortlisted for the Turner Prize 2019. Here’s everything you need to know about the artists
Running since 1984, the Turner Prize has become Britain's most prestigious art award, launching the likes of Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst into household names. In past years, the accolade has endured the scathing mockery of critics with irreverent works like Anthea Hamilton's Project for Door (After Gaetano Pesce) (2015), a massive sculpture of a pair of buttocks, featured on the shortlist, making the prize the butt of every joke within the art world.
Last year, however, took a more serious turn with the list dominated by artists working with film to expound political issues. Charlotte Prodger took home the prize and £25,000 for two video works, including one shot entirely on a smartphone. This year's list retains a strong digital edge but has a more diverse spread of media. Painting, installation and sculpture enjoy a resurgence, while performance art brings a strong theatrical element to the 2019 shortlist. It seems that social commentary and political pieces continue to attract the admiration of the jury with shared themes like marginalised identities, unheard voices and social histories, running throughout the work of each artist.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Perhaps the least figurative of the works selected are by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, an ‘artist and audio investigator’ who deals in sound to explore human rights. The Beirut-based artist uses sonic evidence to narrate injustices which are not seen but heard. Abu Hamdan is nominated for his solo exhibition Earwitness Theatre (2018) at Chisenhale Gallery, in which the artist played audio testimonials of detainees in the Syrian regime prison of Saydnaya.
He is also nominated for his work Walled Unwalled (2018) at Tate Modern which examined a series of legal cases in which evidence was obtained via listening through walls. In an age of surveillance, his work powerfully addresses ‘the politics of listening’ and questions of privacy.
British artist Helen Cammock continues the strong representation of film as artistic medium in the Turner Prize. Like Abu Hamdan, the voice is an animating influence in her work, which she uses to narrate complex histories across film, photography, music, and performance.
Her film The Long Note (2018), exhibited at Void Gallery in Derry and IMMA in Dublin, examines the role of women during the 1968 civil rights movement in Derry Londonderry, a story which has long been overshadowed by the politics of Northern Ireland during this period.
Oscar Murillo, installation view of Oscar Murillo | Zhang Enli at chi K11 art museum (Shanghai), 21st March - 31st May 2019. Photographs by Ou Chia-Cheng © Oscar Murillo. Courtesy the artist and chi K11 art museum.
Oscar Murillo needs little introduction as the most high profile of the nominees, already making a splash in the art world and market as early as 2013. The Colombian-British artist is known for exploring issues of migration and communities within the context of globalisation. He is nominated for his work in the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018), his solo exhibition Violet Amnesia at Cambridge’s Kettle’s Yard (2019) and his exhibition at chi K11 art museum in Shanghai (2019). In the latter two, Murillo created papier-mâché effigies of workers who seem to be endlessly waiting in a Beckettesque scenario, commenting on the oppression of labour.
After a long absence, painting makes a welcome but somewhat shy return to the Turner Prize with Murillo’s black canvases in Violet Amnesia. These dark, engulfing works are symbolic of mourning and conflict, inspired by a night flight from Tel Aviv to Baku where the artist became aware of a dead body being transported in the plane's hold.
Self-taught artist Tai Shani brings a riot of colour and fantasy into the shortlist with her nominated exhibitions including DC: Semiramis (2018) at The Tetley in Leeds and Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance (2018) at Nottingham Contemporary.
These works are part of an ongoing project called Dark Continent, in which the the artist creates divine and surreal installations as well as large-scale pastel-coloured dreamscapes combined with live performance. Like Cammock, she is concerned with exploring the female experience through her art, but adopts a more futurist approach by imagining female utopias. In DC: Semiramis, Shani draws upon mythical iconography and 15th century feminist texts to create an ‘allegorical city of women’ unhindered by patriarchy.
The artists' works will be shown in a group exhibition at Margate’s Turner Contemporary from 28 September to 12 January. Victoria Pomery, a jury member and director of Turner Contemporary highlights that bringing the exhibition to the Margate gallery marks the first direct link made between the prize and the English Romantic painter whom the prize is named after, J. M. W. Turner. Turner regularly stayed in lodgings that once stood on the site of the gallery, inspired by the surrounding sea views and skies which he observed as ‘the loveliest in all Europe’. Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner which will be broadcasted live on the BBC on 3 December 2019.