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A new Renaissance for the Turner prize

Dazzling but elusive, Wright's work reminds me of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Catch it before it disappears

One of the great things about the 2009 Turner prize – and it has been a wonderful 25th year – was reading visitors' response cards. In previous years, the comments people pin to the wall have often been sceptical. But this year, most took the opportunity to enthuse about their favourite artwork. Even though I had a vote on the jury, I couldn't resist doing the same. My anonymous note said: "Richard Wright – genius."

I was won over by Wright even before I saw his wonderful room at Tate Britain. While he was creating it, he also made a silver painting on the ceiling of the Gagosian Gallery in Mayfair. Light from the gallery's long window produced sublime and elusive effects in a perspective illusion that evoked Islamic decoration, or the mathematical designs of Leonardo da Vinci.

Ah, Leonardo. While I was on this jury I was also finishing a book about Leonardo and his rival Michelangelo, which will be published in April 2010. It was surprisingly easy to shift gear between the Turner prize and the Italian Renaissance. And the theme of my book probably predisposed me to love Wright: it is about vanished wall paintings. And Wright makes wall paintings that vanish.

Wright is, in my opinion, one of the worthiest Turner winners ever. He's also one of a handful of painters to have won it since I started following the exhibitions in 1993.

He is a painter for our time – and only for our time, because he does not want his works to last. His view of his art, his acknowledgement of its mortality, is deeply moving. The abundance and generosity of his room at Tate Britain first seduces and delights you, then becomes ever more impressive, resonant and rich.

See it before it fulfils its destiny and becomes a lost masterpiece, a dazzling memory. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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