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May 21 2012

The toon turns out for Tyne's big fashion bash

Sales and footfall success of last year's debut event has promoted a nine-day extravaganza in Newcastle and Gateshead this time round

Something is stirring in Newcastle city centre. Northumberland Street has been transformed into a city-sized runway for the style savvy and the fashion police are patrolling - cameras poised for those dressed to kill.

Yes, we're coming up to Newcastle Fashion Week organised by NE1 and the hunt is on for the city's sleekest citizens via a 'Newcastle's Most Stylish' street-style competition. Hot on the heels of last year's success, the Geordie take on London and Paris is back with a whey aye – and it's set to be bigger and better than before. The fashion 'week' actually stretches over nine days from this Saturday 26 May and promises 'focused fashion fun with one major milestone event on each day'.

With practically the whole city involved, there's something for everyone – from 'Fashion Freaks and Film Geeks' night at the Tyneside Cinema to an eBay workshop at the city library and a lecture by veteran editor Elizabeth Walker at Newcastle University - fashionista or not, you won't be left out.

This year, the event will focus on more live action fashion with at least one catwalk show each day. Highlights include 'Frock and Roll' at Northumbria University, combining four top high street brands with four fantastic live music acts, a Tudor fashion show in the city library with costume designer Julia Soares McCormick, a charity shop chic show in St. Nicholas' Cathedral and 'Fashion's Day Out' in Eldon Square – an afternoon packed with catwalk shows and demonstrations.

Organiser Sandra Tang says:

We've tried to create the buzz of a major Fashion Week by staging a fast-paced timetable of catwalk shows at stores across Eldon Square. The idea is for people to hot foot it around the centre to catch the catwalk action throughout the day.

Newcastle's emerging talent will also be showcasing work, with Northumbria University's fashion design graduates presenting end-of-year collections at the Baltic, scene of last year's Turner Prize, and Newcastle College students showing off their designs at Grey's Monument.

For vintage-lovers and bargain hunters there's a 'Summer Swish' and a 'Make and Mend Market' fashion special in the Grainger Market – full of homemade retro treasures. There will also be a suit amnesty throughout the week where unwanted suits, belts, ties, shoes and general workwear can be donated to help homeless job seekers.

The week draws to a close with Gosforth-born former Burberry model Donna Air presenting the award for 'Newcastle's most stylish' to the coolest people spotted by the week's roving photographers. Fashion TV hosts the closing party at Tup Tup Palace.

Sandra describes Newcastle-Gateshead style as "eclectic" and says:

The fashion vibe belies the place's size – it may not be the largest city but it's got a wide range of street styles, well-serviced by an array of different retailers. There are designer names such as Vivienne Westwood and the brands stocked in Cruise and Fenwick through to vintage lovers and indie chic who are well catered-for by thriving independent boutiques and vintage stores across the city.

The high street is also well-represented and can provide fashion fodder for a wide range of street styles. It all helps to fuel a vibrant and very diverse fashion scene in the city.

Last year's debut fashion week was a major success, with an average footfall increase of 24% and average sales increase of 39% for companies involved. This year, NE1 have set the bar even higher with exclusive t-shirts designed by South Shields-based fashion house Barbour and necklaces from Lovebullets jewellery which caters to celebrities such as another local lass, Cheryl Cole.

In the midst of the economic downturn, the retail sector needs all the help it can get and Newcastle Fashion Week also helps to raise awareness of all the creativity on our doorstep. With many events free of charge or very reasonable, there's no excuse not to get involved and support our region's business community. Al info is here and on Facebook here and Twitter here.


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December 30 2011

December 06 2011

Turner prizewinner Martin Boyce: 'The tree just sort of blossomed' – video

Martin Boyce speaks to Charlotte Higgins about the inspiration behind his installation Do Words Have Voices



December 05 2011

Martin Boyce wins Turner prize 2011

Martin Boyce receives £25,000 award, confirming Glasgow's indelible importance to Britain's art world

Having sculpted a quietly atmospheric, lyrically autumnal installation as his entry for the 2011 Turner prize, Martin Boyce was on Monday presented with the £25,000 award at a ceremony at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

Boyce, 44, is the third successive Turner winner either brought up or educated in Glasgow, following Susan Philipsz last year and Richard Wright in 2009, and he confirms the city's now indelible importance to Britain's art world.

The artist was born in Hamilton, and was among the first students to graduate from Glasgow School of Art's now famous environmental art course. His year included Douglas Gordon, who won the prize in 1996, and Nathan Coley, shortlisted in 2007.

The prize was handed to Boyce by photographer Mario Testino at the Gateshead gallery. It is the first time the Turner prize has been shown outside the Tate family of galleries, and only the second time outside London.

Boyce created an installation for the Turner that has the feel both of an interior space and a mournful municipal park. Trees (in fact, the pillars that support the gallery ceiling) loom, their geometric aluminium leaves dappling the light that is cast over the space. On the ground are scattered more leaves, this time cut from paper, each of them of the same rebarbative, angular shape.

There is a madly angular park bin, too. But there is also a desk, based on a library table by French modernist designer Jean Prouvé, with letters scratched into it as if by a schoolchild. Much of the artistic vocabulary for Boyce's installation derives from a modernist garden – complete with concrete trees – created by designers Joel and Jan Martel in Paris in 1925.

The judges praised his "opening up of a new sense of poetry", while Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, not a member of the jury, commented: "He is an extraordinarily strong artist who has been steadily maturing over the past seven or eight years. He made an extremely strong show for the Venice Biennale in 2009 – and I am surprised he was not shortlisted then. It is a strong choice.

"He has consistently reinvented the language of early modern art, and he is deeply engaged in that. But he makes work that does not depend on an understanding of early modern art: it is beautiful and arresting in its own right."

Boyce was the bookies' favourite for the prize, but many will be disappointed that George Shaw, 44, missed out.

Shaw, who is based in Devon, paints the estate where he grew up near Coventry, skirting dangerously close to kitsch with his deadpan, affectless depictions of dreary side roads, locked-up shops, littered half-urban woods and derelict pubs – the depressing but utterly recognisable edgelands of suburban England.

He had been nominated for a solo exhibition at the Baltic earlier this year.

Karla Black, 38, is another shortlisted artist who was educated at the Glasgow School of Art and is still based in the city. Nominated for an exhibition at this year's Venice Biennale representing Scotland, her sculptures for the Turner show are simultaneously delicate and on a huge scale. Here are giant, rolled-up balls of sugar paper chalked over in ice-cream colours, "bath bombs" from a high-street toiletries chain and painted polythene sheets made to dangle from the ceiling by sticky tape.

The final shortlisted artist was Hilary Lloyd, 46, based in London. Working with video, she creates works that are part film and part sculpture, revelling in the physical apparatus of her hardware's cabling and projectors, and showing images – of say a road bridge, a shadow on the floor, or the moon – that are deliberately unedited. She was nominated for an exhibition at the London gallery Raven Row. Judges for the 2011 Turner prize were Godfrey Worsdale, director of Baltic, and curators Katrina Brown, Vasif Kortun and Nadia Schneider. They were chaired by the director of Tate Britain, Penelope Curtis.

The prize returns to London and Tate Britain in 2012. It will be based in Derry in 2013, with the intention it should travel to cities outside London in alternate years.

The Turner prize was founded in 1984 and is awarded to a British or Britain-based artist aged under 50 for an outstanding exhibition in the preceding year.

Previous winners include Rachel Whiteread (1994), Damien Hirst (1995) and Grayson Perry (2003). The Turner exhibition continues until 8 January.


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December 02 2011

Does the Turner prize still matter?

This year's Turner prize winner is named next week. Artist and former winner Jeremy Deller, and writer and former judge Miranda Sawyer discuss art's biggest contest

On Monday the winner of the 2011 Turner prize will be announced. Founded in 1984, it is awarded to a British artist under the age of 50. Previous winners include Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst. Since it was established, it has stoked controversy about contemporary art, though in recent years it has been more notable for its lack of sensationalism. Emine Saner asks journalist and broadcaster – and one-time judge – Miranda Sawyer, and artist and winner of the 2004 prize, Jeremy Deller, if it still matters.

Miranda Sawyer: Who is the Turner prize for?

Jeremy Deller: It's for the public, it's for the artists who take part, it helps the Tate, it's for whoever wants it. It's for the appreciation of contemporary art. The fact it's going to be moving around Britain is a good idea [this year it will be held outside London for the second time, at the Baltic in Gateshead]. Every other year it's going to leave London, and I think it's really important. Apparently in Gateshead they had 5,000 on the first day [by the end of the week, 30,000 people had visited]. The hunger is there.

MS: You could argue that it's done its job – we all know who Damien Hirst is; the Tate Modern is there. It's still needed, because every time it comes around there's a debate about it. The thing I find difficult is that it tends to be a trivial debate – "why isn't there an unmade bed this year?" or "why isn't it something we can get upset about?"

Emine Saner: Is there an expectation that it's going to be shocking, and then when it isn't, like this year, it almost seems disappointing? Do you think this diminishes its popularity?

JD: I don't think it diminishes its popularity. The public and media are more used to contemporary art now. I think you're mixing the press reaction with the public reaction. When I won, I said you lot [journalists at the press conference] are 10 years behind the public, you're still in this era of "this is all a big con" or "this is rubbish". But you see people at the Turner prize walking around, and they are into it in a way you'd never expect, reading everything and looking at everything. The first question I got from a journalist after I won was: "Is the video camera the new pencil?" If you go in for the Turner prize, you have to be quite strong, because you are up for a massive destruction at the hands of the press if you are not careful.

ES: What did winning the Turner prize do for you?

JD: If you have won it, people are happy to meet you, work with you and do things with you. It's a shorthand for "this person is successful", so I can get access to people and situations. Within the art world, you get invited to dinners, but it's actually helpful outside the art world. It's much more highly regarded abroad than it is in the UK. Because it's been going on for so long, and the winners have been pretty good, they see it as having a legitimacy. If you don't make much money with your work and you get nominated, it's like you're being recognised finally, because you're not recognised by the market. Maybe that's why I did it – the need to be legitimised.

MS: I can't name another contemporary art prize that is as important, and that's amazing really, that it still has that status, and people will still react to it.

JD: One of the reasons we need it is because there are these big names in contemporary art who get the publicity, and yet there are all these other artists who deserve some appreciation. The big artists monopolise press attention and the public's consciousness of what art is. And yet someone like George Shaw [one of the nominated artists] has credibility within the art world, and for the public is a real discovery.

MS: I like the hoo-ha. If somebody really press-friendly wins, like Grayson Perry, he had a rollercoaster year, he loved it, he's now a kind of national treasure. It works when you get interesting art and an interesting personality. There's a lot of culture being fired at you from all sides and the Turner is one way of guiding people. There is still an intimidation aspect to contemporary galleries. Sometimes you can go to an east London gallery and there's one person there being really cool and you have to walk around looking at things feeling like a dick. If you go into a place like Tate Modern, it's like a public park under a roof – the atmosphere is "anyone can come, have a look". People feel they might not know anything about contemporary art, but they can walk in. It's the same with the Turner prize exhibition.

JD: The prize is about making people not feel stupid – the environment is very user-friendly, even if the art isn't. If you go to see it, you're part of something as well, which makes it quite exciting.

MS: I was on the Turner prize judging panel [in 2007]. It was the single most traumatic experience I've had judging anything, by miles. There are just four of you, and there's something about the prize that is incredibly intense. You're not judging the work that is shown to the public, you're judging a piece of work or exhibition that is not there. The year I judged it, Mark Wallinger won. He won for State Britain [Wallinger's recreation of peace campaigner Brian Haw's protest camp] – but that wasn't shown. He showed Sleeper [the artist filmed himself wearing a bear suit and walking around a German gallery], so everybody thought he won it for that, although Sleeper is a great work.

JD: That lack of clarity can be a problem.

MS: I love art, but I don't go to every private view, I don't go to Venice [Biennale, contemporary art exhibition]. You can't go and see all the art. It is possible, if you're judging the Mercury prize or the Booker, to listen to all the albums or read all the books, but with art, it's impossible. You have to go and have that experience, and it's not possible unless you're in the art world or you're paid to go and look at everything.

ES: How do you feel about the age limit?

MS: I don't think there should be one.

JD: I was a trustee until recently, and we discussed it. I felt it should have been changed, but not many other people did. They realised that for the first 10 years of the new Turner prize, they would be giving it to people in their 70s and 80s, catching up, giving it to these mega figures.

MS: Maybe the argument for having an age limit is that it will help people more when they're younger – but in that case, why not whack it down?

JD: Artists mature later. It's a slower burn.

MS: What could you do to the Turner prize to make it better?

JD: Probably have more of a budget for the judges and the artists. Do a better book, a lovely catalogue. Treat it with a bit more respect as a process. But this isn't the time to ask for bigger budgets for art exhibitions.

• For more coverage of this year's prize, including video profiles of all the nominees, click here


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November 15 2011

'Art is a boxed-off space where we can behave like animals'

Video: Turner prize contender Karla Black explains the thinking behind her unorthodox, innovative sculptures



November 08 2011

Turner prize 2011 contenders: George Shaw - video

George Shaw's The Sly and Unseen Day show is painted in Humbrol enamel, and depicts locations near his childhood home in Coventry



October 26 2011

Adrian Searle: 'It's confusing. But it's the Turner prize'

Adrian Searle passes his verdict on the Turner prize 2011 in Gateshead, where Martin Boyce, Hilary Lloyd, Karla Black and George Shaw mix mediums to unsettling effect



October 22 2011

Turner prize 2011 - review

Baltic, Gateshead; Hayward Gallery, London

George Shaw is an oddity in recent Turner prize history in that his paintings do exactly what they say on the tin. The tins in question are the little pots of Humbrol model paints with which he creates his meticulous one-size-fits-all scenes from the place he grew up, Tile Hill in Coventry. Eight of them are presented for his Turner prize 2011 show at the Baltic, four of which are new pieces. They quickly do away with arguments about sentiment and the limitations of simple depiction, and demand that you look.

If there is a soundtrack playing behind Shaw's compositions of the returned-to terrain of his 1980s adolescence it is the Specials' "Ghost Town". He finds traces of human occupation in his excavation of this recent past, like the shades of scrubbed-out graffiti on an end-of-terrace wall, but mostly this place is as emptied of life as Pompeii. He chooses his angles carefully. The places he dwells on, like his past itself, are boarded up and closed down to him. In the brick-built lock-ups of The Resurface even the ingrained child's-bike landscape of puddles and potholes, the gravelly contours of empty Sunday afternoons foregrounded in much of Shaw's painting, has been Tarmac-ed over.

Elsewhere, he can get only as close to the boxy houses of a new cul-de-sac as the wonky builders' fencing and rutted brownfield no man's land will allow. In The Assumption, his old primary school may have been razed but the gates remain stubbornly locked – one strut pulled out of true by some forgotten accident – along with the vestiges of the "Keep Clear" sign on the road.

Shaw's hobbyist's paints and Airfix eye for detail capture the diminished postwar reimagination of his corner of the city with an obsessive, metallic precision: the slowly accreted landfill mountain of black plastic sacks in The Same Old Crap; the brilliant comic incongruity of Landscape With Dog Shit Bin, an omphalos of council scarlet in the centre of a landscape leached of green by the drabness of the day and the neglected tiredness of verges and hedging.

Philip Larkin, another Coventry exile – Shaw now lives in north Devon – would have loved these paintings, but they are made with love as much as any kind of bitterness. They are also a hard act to follow.

The three other Turner nominees at the Baltic all make a strong fist of it, though. Martin Boyce is also much concerned with the interface between concrete and jungle. His work interrogates the implications of early modernist ideas of nature, in particular a photograph of four angular "tree" sculptures made by the artists Joel and Jan Martel in 1925.

He uses the leaf forms to create a kind of prefabricated ode to autumn; at ceiling height the stylised leaves become an elaborate lighting rig; flattened art deco versions of the pattern are adopted for ventilation grilles and a three-dimensional take becomes a waste bin. The floor is littered with paraffin-paper leaves artfully blown into piles.

Within this idealised municipal park, Boyce makes more personal statements; his angular forms are the basis of a self-invented hieroglyph typeface, etched into the school-desk surface of a work table inspired by an Eames design and referencing a Calder mobile. A utopian breeze from the 1920s seems to threaten to blow through these works and animate them – of nature and public spaces recrafted in harmony by the artist – but they remain as curiously inert and ghostly as George Shaw's shopping precincts.

Next door, there is creative nostalgia of a different kind in Karla Black's pastel swags and scrunched-up sugar paper hills and valleys which fill the room. The smells and colours are of a nursery school, and Black's make-believe landscape looks like a wilful return to more innocent artistic freedoms. She colours her polythene clouds by whacking them in a bin bag full of Early Learning Centre chalks until the colour sticks; pink bath bombs have part-exploded on her chalky hillsides. Beyond the sense of play there are primal psychologies at work, of a pure infant engagement with colour and material and form and, through adult eyes, all the loss of wonder it implies.

Hilary Lloyd's films are also hung up on barriers to wonder, especially the difficulties of looking itself. Moon is a pair of vertical screens on each of which 21 moving images of a full moon behind a clock tower outside the artist's window are projected. None will stay still for a moment; they flicker and bounce and move in and out of frame. You are reminded of the fragmentary rods and cones of vision, the way even the solidest of objects is pieced together from flickering fragments in the brain. Lloyd emphasises partiality – Shirt, a concentrated close up of a striped and spotted fabric, is a limited but smart illustration of how looking is as much to do with language as form – and you find yourself beginning to apply the same doubts to the complicated bridges and buildings that make up Gateshead through the adjacent window.

Going straight to the George Condo retrospective at the Hayward in London, after these discreet and concentrated slices of attention on Tyneside, is perhaps not the ideal juxtaposition. Condo's world is decidedly broad brush and translatlantic.

Having hung out with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the heady New York of 1980, Condo has trademarked a personal purgatorial cartoon world that is one part Francis Bacon, two parts Bugs Bunny. His satirical objects are the perceived grotesques of our times – The Stockbroker a jug-eared knucklehead with his pants down, a limp rag doll standing in for his manhood, or The Executive, who is pictured, for comic effect, beneath a dangling carrot (the Queen, in nine versions, and Jesus, in two, come in for similar Looney Tunes treatment).

Much is made of Condo's internal menagerie of characters – as if this were unusual among cartoonists – and the speed at which he works. His more recent semi-abstractions tend to ape art history standards – harlequins in search of a Picasso or whatever; Old masters are recast with his speciality gurning faces, in the same spirit that the Chapman brothers defaced their Goyas, but without the sacrilegious questions raised.

Satire generally requires some specificity; Condo mines instead the archetypal – the homeless drunk woman with a windmilling drinking arm; the dinner-jacketed toff with an unhinged libido – and attempts to make it extreme enough to resonate.

It didn't, for me, as a rule. I liked his Uncle Joe not so much for the figure's post-coital leer and the champagne glass balanced on the upturned sole of his foot, but for the fact that his mad, staring eye was somewhat reminiscent of Steve Bell's Tony Blair and the visual echo seemed fitting. In this kind of context, Condo's portraits of Her Majesty, goggle-eyed in most, a carrot through her head in one, surprise principally for their laziness. Quite endearingly, the artist acts as his own cheerleader in the catalogue – though the unlikely duo of Will Self and Kanye West also tout his genius. "They may not be pretty," Condo explains of his portraits, "but I think we can all see ourselves in these pictures; they are so hideous and yet so utterly real." Speak for yourself, George.


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October 21 2011

World of miseries

In the compact surrounds of Gateshead's Baltic gallery, George Shaw's miserabilist suburban brand of metaphysical painting marks him out as a strong contender for the 2011 Turner prize

The exhibition spaces given over to the four contenders for the 2011 Turner prize at Baltic in Gateshead are smaller than at Tate Britain, where the show usually takes place. This is no bad thing: the artists have to be concise.

When she represented Scotland at this year's Venice Biennale, Karla Black completely overdid her installation, and her Baltic show is much tighter, though still a joyous, childish mess. The way in is through a kind of airlock of dangling, paint-smeared polythene sheeting, like going into a spray-shed in a garage. Suspended precariously on bits of sellotape, you think the whole thing might collapse at any moment. Dried colour, poorly adhered to the plastic, sheers off in crumbly shards onto the floor.

Beyond are nests of scrunched-up cellophane and great wodges of torn and folded paper, painted in thin pinks and aqueous greens, the insipid tints of bath products and the poster paints kids use. A faint odour of deodorant and moisturiser hangs over Black's room-filling terrain of bulging, crinkled paper. It's like a kindergarten rockery. There's even a sort of grotto to rustle through.

Amid it all are Lush bath bombs, like little pastel cannonballs, and drifts and mounds of chalky pigment on the floor. I wish it were all more precise, or added up to something magical. I want more mystery and pleasure. I feel like mum, hands on hips, shouting: "Clear up all this mess NOW, or no TV for you!" This is painting or sculpture by other means, but it's all indeterminate abstraction, with its little formal niceties, the rips and folds and dustings of colour, the occasional finger-painted daubs. Black's work is fading on me, fast.

While Black attempts a sort of pre-linguistic, haptic play, Hilary Lloyd revels in a kind of techno-fetishism. Her room at the Baltic is alive with images, screens, trolleys and swanky suspension units. The ranks of projectors, the pole-mounted screens, the DVD players and monitors are as important as the hovering, flickering images they display. Images of part of a tower block shuffle about one screen, sheering and joggling against milky whiteness. Here they come, there they go. The rhythm of their passing is nice. In another work, the pistonlike movements of an unknown, silhouetted object – it could be a sink-plunger – thrust this way and that against a wooden floor.

The camera dwells on a patterned shirt, looking like an indoor landscape in a white room and, on a second screen, drifting off into static, or an inverted bleached-out after-image of the same thing. I am not really sure what I am looking at. Nor whether to sit and look, wander about, focus on the images, at the apparatus, even at my own shoes. All this drifting is the point, I think. One wall of Lloyd's space is a floor-to-ceiling window. Against it two screens, mounted one high above the other, display a fragmented, nocturnal London. Low-volume police sirens wail from the speakers. Big Ben hoves in and out of view. Is that the moon, or headlights in the night? The fragmentary images jerk and wallow around with a kind of rhythmic urgency, against the real, elevated view through the window, Newcastle and Gateshead going round a bend in the river. The real view wins.

Soon, all Lloyd's paraphernalia of projectors and DVD players, monitors and digital HD-branded hardware will look out of date. Later it will acquire a kind of redundant technology retro-chic. The images they display will be as inscrutable and inconsequential as they appear now, still swaying, going in and out of focus, still doing their thing, interminably as well as to no particular end. Paradoxically, that's when they might become interesting.

I like Martin Boyce's room very much. It feels like a place that's both real and fictional, present and past. From the decorative, fake ventilation grilles set low down in the walls to the suspended ceiling of flip-flapping white metal shapes hanging beneath the lights, casting a dapple of geometric shadows over the walls, it is a good place to be. The centrepiece is a library table, all canted angles, hidden over-slung lighting, solidity and frippery, confusing itself with a hanging mobile that dangles from above on a chain. Taking its inspiration from a library table by French designer Jean Prouvé, the table has a wood worktop inscribed with fragmentary letters and words, like an old school desk. It is an object you'd like to sit at, thinking complicated thoughts.

Boyce's installation is a play on modernist high style, with a twist. Most of all I like the geometric autumn leaves, made from waxy crepe paper, that drift and pile up in corners of the room. The whole installation is a play on insides and outsides, mental space and physical place. Look in the wonky rubbish bin and its binbag turns out to be woven, like an upturned, involuted jumper. I can't catch all the references to utopian modernist aesthetics, but just being here is pleasure enough. Perhaps Lloyd and Black want their installations to be places to be and linger in, too, places to sit and wait and ponder. But I guess the crowds won't allow that kind of meandering desultory contemplation.

George Shaw's paintings, on the other hand, depict places you want to escape from. You can take Shaw out of Tile Hill, Coventry, but you can't take the post-war housing estates out of Shaw. This is his perennial subject, with its abandoned 1950s follies, the Barratt homes and 60s semis, the scruffy woodlands and graffitied shop-fronts. Where Constable might paint a distant farmboy in a red shirt, to counterpoint all the bosky greenery, Shaw gives us a red-painted dogshit bin.

The feral woodlands, the brown field sites and the wanton atmosphere demarcate a familiar zone. Lucian Freud and Michael Andrews sometimes painted a similarly forlorn decrepitude, and, at his best, so did LS Lowry. Shaw records a perennial Sunday – or possibly Thursday – afternoon in indeterminate weather, and there's never anyone about. Shaw's paintings are always rendered in Humbrol enamel, the paint hobbyists and kids hard at it with their model plane kits use. Or did, before computer games took over.

Shaw has eight smallish paintings in the Turner show, some of which were shown in his immensely popular exhibition at the Baltic earlier this year, for which he was nominated. Shaw is popular because he speaks about his corner of England – though it could be anywhere – with a kind of melancholic truth. Shaw's art chimes in with an England of Tony Hancock and Philip Larkin, Orwell and Morrissey's Every Day is Like Sunday. Shaw's is a miserabilist suburban sort of metaphysical painting. The paint itself has a nothingy, curdled quality, like the place and the weather it depicts. It's all atmosphere, or the lack of one. And his art is always the same, everything just getting slowly worse and unloved and a little more embittered, just like England itself.

Should Shaw win? I prefer the hope I find in Boyce, whose elegant, astringent aesthetic appeals. There's hope in what he offers. But somehow I think Shaw should win, with his small miseries. He gives us the world we live in.


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October 14 2011

Turner prize, Frieze, Wilhelm Sasnal – the week in art

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Jonathan Jones's top shows to see this week

Turner prize 2011
This year the north-east plays host to the most controversial and influential art prize in the world. A promising shortlist boasts George Shaw (yeah!), Hilary Lloyd, Karla Black and Martin Boyce.
• At Baltic, Gateshead, from 21 October until 8 January 2012

George Condo
Crazy and to be honest, really fascinating American painter, schlocky and sensational, this show promises to one of the autumn's best surprises.
• At Hayward Gallery, London SE1, from 18 October until 8 January 2012

Wilhelm Sasnal
A powerful and haunting German modern painter – what, another? – exhibits eerily ambiguous works.
• At Whitechapel Gallery, London E1, from 14 October until 1 January 2012

Anri Sala
Sound and vision resonate in this show by the Albanian film and video artist.
• At Serpentine Gallery, London W2, until 20 November

Kerry Tribe
Ghosts and space travel are among the themes of Kerry Tribe's Dead Star Light. Obviously not the real themes – it's about memory and time and stuff like that.
• At Modern Art Oxford until 20 November

Up close: five artworks in detail

Rodin, The Thinker, first cast 1902
A massive figure rests head on hand in an image of melancholy that goes back to medieval carvings such as the Queen in the Lewis Chessmen. Rodin first created his Thinker as a pensive witness to the sufferings of the damned on his swarming Gates of Hell, a vision of Dante's Inferno. Later, large versions were cast and it became the modern world's icon of introspection.
• At Burrell Collection, Glasgow

William Blake, Milton, c1800-1803
Blake wrote that Milton was of the devil's party but did not know it. He believed the real energy of the 17th-century republican's poem Paradise Lost lies in the rebellion of Satan. His portrait of Milton is the visionary communication of one great mind with another.
• At Manchester Art Gallery

Goya, Interior of a Prison, c1810-14
All the clawing anxieties that shape the mad universe of Goya's darkest paintings pervade the sepulchral depths of a prison in this sublime painting. Here is a glaring example of how Britain's art collections can be overlooked: this vision of cruelty and suffering would grace any museum in the world ... how fantastic that it glowers in County Durham.
• At the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham

Rembrandt, Portrait of Titus, c1658
The art of Rembrandt is as enduring as his life was fragile. Rembrandt suffered so much, including many bereavements. His son, portrayed here with such love, died before him. But in art, young Titus will live forever.
• At Wallace Collection, London W1

Manet, The Execution of Maximilian, c1867-8
Manet takes traditional genres and makes them new. His idea of modern painting is to deliberately, and constantly, reveal how modern life disfigures and traduces the old nobilities, as expressed in artistic tradition. In this great, damaged work he turns to the genre of history painting to show the brutality and cynicism of modern politics.
• At National Gallery, London WC2

What we learned this week

Why Chloe Sevigny is encouraging us to "Never stagnate, never stop" – and perhaps to take up pole-dancing

Why a giant egg, peeking eyes, pecking pigeons and a Paramount Pictures peak have come together

How Adrian Searle and Sarah Lucas ended up in bed together

What David Hockney, Kristen Scott Thomas and Ed Vaizey's favourite artworks are

How a hermit crab made a Brâncuşi head his happy new home

Image of the week

Your Art Weekly

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Have you seen any of these shows? What have you enjoyed this week? Give your review in the comments below or tweet us your verdict using #artweekly and we'll publish the best ones.

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October 06 2011

Muted masterpieces: contemporary art that does not need the wow factor

Richard Wilson's 'lake of oil' was the first artwork to give me a theatrical thrill. But there are quieter, more subtle artists on the march this autumn, such as Turner prize nominee George Shaw

What work of art first made you feel the wow factor? This does not mean just being impressed by, or loving, a work of art. I mean the particular theatrical vibe of contemporary art, that thrills, entertains, and diverts the spectator in a way that makes you just say ... "Wow."

The British modern art season is about to enter mad mode. With the new Tate Turbine Hall commission, the Turner prize, and the Frieze art fair all imminent, it is time to gargle and exercise your vocal chords ready to say ... "Wow." Or perhaps just say it in your head, and skim-read some art theory so you can mouth more impressive phrases. Or stay at home and watch television, or do the garden. Hey, I didn't have this bright idea of compressing a year's modern art into a week. Don't turn on me about it.

Anyway, the first work of art that brought the contemporary wow factor home to me was Richard Wilson's sleek and dark, reflective and apparently bottomless lake of oil, 20:50, which I first saw at the old Saatchi Gallery in Swiss Cottage. Walking for the first time down the narrow aisle between the two halves of the room-filling installation, with oil pressing against their edges, held in by molecular forces as it peeped over the steel walls, was awe-inspiring. The glassy reflections created a sense of floating in the air, so you felt at once menaced by oil and in danger of falling: as I write this I remember that strange sensation of both claustrophobia and vertigo.

Here we are, and you can still see that definitive work of contemporary art at the relocated Saatchi Gallery today. In the early 1990s, critics often carped that the taste for the wow factor was really the product of Saatchi's advertising sensibility. He even bought a pickled shark!

Now we know it was more than that. Something about the theatricality of today's art liberates and greases the pleasure principle. That thrill of going to a museum and getting a theme park ride is very real, and apparently universal.

Yet this autumn, among the rides, there are some imitations of a quieter art. The Tate Turbine Hall stole Saatchi's thunder long ago and is today the definitive arena of culture as spectacle. Yet this year's artist there is Tacita Dean. Her films, drawings, photographs and montages resist the wow factor. They make you think instead. She is truly serious, and in the best way mysterious, and her Tate piece promises to be a real event, not merely as spectacle but as sombre, subtle, complex art.

Similarly, in the Turner prize, the most fascinating contender is George Shaw, a painter of depth and passion. Shaw is a quietly miraculous artist. His paintings are eerie scenes of the ruinous edges of modern British life. Surreal and silent, they beckon your imagination. Nothing could be further from the culture of wow than the art of George Shaw. No one has ever seemed a more deserving candidate for the Turner prize.

So the real artistic wonders this autumn will leave the wow factor far behind.


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May 31 2011

Karla Black: 'Don't call my art feminine'

In the Palazzo Pisani, Glasgow-based Turner prize contender sculpts cosmetics into peach and pistachio 'cave paintings'

In the 15th-century Palazzo Pisani, Karla Black has made the kind of work that whets the appetite for the Turner prize, the award she is tipped to win this December: boulder-size bundles of sugar paper chalked over in shades of peach and pistachio and bedecked with talcous mounds of plaster powder; sheets of paper sprayed with fake tan; and balsa wood painted with eyeshadow. In one series of rooms, the floors are scattered with soil on which sit industrial-size cubes of soap from toiletries chain Lush, a sponsor of the exhibition.

Don't, though, whatever you do, call this apparent onrush of girliness feminine. She finds this description of her art disgusting. "It is ridiculous and annoying," she says. "Why do people call it feminine? Because it is light, fragile, pale? Because it is weak, impermanent? When you start going to work on it you realise how ridiculous the description is. How can a work of art be feminine?"

It is certainly Black's year. Aside from being the insiders' favourite, neck and neck with painter George Shaw, to win this year's Turner prize, as Scotland's representative at the Venice Biennale she has been thrust on to the largest and most prestigious international stage for art.

Though not an official participating country – Mike Nelson represents the UK in the Biennale proper, eligible to win the Golden Lion for the best national exhibition – this is the fifth time Scotland has staged its own "collateral" show, an increasingly important platform for the nation's artists. Martin Boyce, fielded by Scotland in 2009, is also shortlisted for the Turner prize.

Her sculpture, Black says, is absolutely non-representational. "There is no image, no metaphor," she says. Rather, the point is the sculpture's sheer materiality, its heft and presence and fact of being in the world as it confronts the viewer. The use of materials gleaned from Boots' cosmetics counter, she explains, is not a kind of feminist critique of sculpture – "though I am a feminist". It is, she says, not as simple as that: "When I am spraying fake tan on paper I am actually thinking of people making cave paintings. They would hold the colour in their mouth and spit it out: that was the first spray paint."

This autumn, Black will be preparing for her Turner prize exhibition at the Baltic centre for contemporary art, Gateshead. Having been far from a household name, she will be pushed out into the public gaze, her work seen by thousands and pored over by the media. "I'm pleased," she said. "But I am keeping my head down. I have a lot of work to do and I am concentrating on it. Next year it will all be over, and it will be someone else's turn."

Karla Black is at the Palazzo Pisani (S Marina), Calle de le Erbe, Cannaregio 6103, Venice, from Saturday until 27 November


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May 21 2011

A new wave of serious artists

Tracey Emin is enjoying a retrospective at the Hayward, but the country's rising stars take a more practical approach

The reign of "the concept" in modern British art is finally over: long live "the object". As some of the former rebels of the notorious Young British Artist movement are accused of selling out to "the establishment", a new generation is taking their place, flaunting an altogether new aesthetic.

The freshest art on the contemporary scene appears to have turned its back on the ironic jokes and personal confessions epitomised by Tracey Emin's notorious unmade bed and Damien Hirst's dead floating shark. Emin's high-profile retrospective at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank may be pulling in the London crowds, but she alienated many of her peers last week by confirming her Tory sympathies and backing the government's latest round of arts cuts. Damien Hirst also ruffled some liberal feathers by happily rubbing shoulders with billionaires at the last Davos summit.

And as the most famous and iconoclastic of the YBAs start to lose their shine as role models, the art world's best-known curators and commentators claim a new earnestness is sweeping the country's better art schools and informing the work of their successors.

One of the biggest names in contemporary painting is on the shortlist for the coveted Turner prize this year. George Shaw, at 44, is roughly the same age as both Hirst or Emin yet is one of the leaders of the emerging "serious" tendency. Shaw concentrates on the oddly beguiling nature of ugly cityscapes with his watercolours and enamel paint studies. He insists that his work is not a reaction to the tricksy habits of the YBAs, but art critics beg to differ.

With his show, The Sly and Unseen Day, opening on Tuesday at the South London Gallery, the Coventry-born artist says he is bemused to find himself the centre of attention: "My work was not done as a response. It was a conversation I was having with myself. Then I noticed other people were interested and I had to pinch myself."

Shaw originally intended to become a performance artist and studied installation, photography, video and sound, before discarding it all. "I realised a lot of stuff I was doing was just rubbish. I was just adopting the same sort of things that had gone on before. So I went back to what I used to think at college, which was that the most shocking thing you could do would be to make a watercolour of a tree." At that point Shaw felt "an installation with a dead baby in it" had become the new conformity.

Other coming stars are both younger and, for now, relatively obscure. On Wednesday last week the annual Catlin art prize, which celebrates promising new work, was awarded to 22-year-old Russell Hill from Rugby. Hill works with everyday objects to expose the hidden threats or contradictions lying dormant in apparently banal things such as air fresheners or an oil can.

"The main thing for me is to make my work as articulate as possible in terms of themes and messages," Hill said yesterday. "I always maintain the function of the object. That's important to me. If I change an oil can, then it's not an oil can. If there are elements of ambiguity when people see it, I have to accept that."

He uses juxtaposition to point up his ideas about objects. So the "DIY nostalgia" of an item such as an oil can is coupled with fabric softener then displayed in a deliberately "clinical, harsh setting – like a hospital product".

"It is a piece about two lubricants," he explains. "There is a real sense of exploitation in my work. I tend to strip back objects and make people more aware of the underhand nature of the things that we see around us."

Hill's influences, he claims, come from abroad rather than from famous YBAs, although he acknowledges a debt to Martin Creed, the Scot who won the 2001 Turner prize with his flickering light in an empty room.

Justin Hammond, curator of the Catlin show and editor of the prize's guide, who spotted the artist at his degree show in Wimbledon, has found that many young art graduates are focusing on objects in the world around them.

"There's a lot more serious work in the past couple of years, a lot less jokey one-liners and less frivolity," he said. "Instead, there's a lot of work with statistics now, for example, and there are more real objects being used in sculpture. Russell's work is so precise, so clinical and so clean. It was obvious someone had obsessed over it. He was the unanimous choice this year."

Joanne Hummel Newell, who will be exhibiting her work at a satellite show at the Venice Biennale next month, is another artist excited by the significance of objects. The 28-year-old uses found items in combination with collage to make intriguing sculptures.

And one of the stars of next week's prestigious sculpture show, The Shape of Things to Come at the Saatchi Gallery in south-west London, is also known for shedding new light on items of rubbish. David Batchelor makes installations from things he has found on the streets of the capital then turns them into brightly coloured light boxes. His work is a mission to prove that left-overs can be made beautiful.

"When I make works from light boxes, or old plastic bottles with lights inside, I hope the illumination suspends their objecthood to some degree, and makes the viewer see them a little differently – see them as colours before seeing them as objects," he has explained. At 55, Batchelor, who is Scottish, has blazed a trail for this kind of practical sculpture, while the YBAs experimented with conceptual ruses.

Not all emerging artists have turned away from the Concept. For the first time, the Catlin prize line-up for 2011 included a performance artist, Leah Capaldi. For the show Capaldi sprays two actors with a bottle of Chanel perfume each before they walk off around the Tramshed gallery in Shoreditch, East London. "The idea came from when I was at the British Museum a while ago looking at a statue and a woman walked past me wearing so much perfume it was unbelievable. I found it stifling and had a real physical reaction; I had to walk to the other end of the gallery to get out of that space," she recalls.

Visitors to the Catlin show can judge the impact for themselves at noon today when Capaldi performs for the last time before the exhibition closes at 6pm.

For Sarah Ryan, director of online gallery Newbloodart, the prospect of spotting emerging new trends is appealing. Her yearly task of visiting 100 summer degree shows is just beginning.

"We have just started with Oxford Brookes at the weekend and noticed a lot of integrated work that brings in all the sensory aspects, a more multi-discipline approach. This is immersive work, using sculpture and sound and performance. Maybe it has something to do with all the technical advances going on around us that make this easier to do."


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