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December 06 2010

Susan Philipsz wins Turner prize

Susan Philipsz' work makes you think about place, space, memory and presence: it opens up your feelings

Susan Philipsz winning the Turner prize is the right result, and I feel the same pleasure in her win as I did when painter Tomma Abts won in 2006. In both cases I was impressed by the artists' originality - not a word you hear much in contemporary art circles, their inventiveness, and the difficult yet accessible pleasures their art can give.

Dexter Dalwood's paintings seemed to me too brittle, too clever and contrived to win. He was let down by having too many works in the show, too few of which were in themselves compelling. Each painting was a compendium of styles and references, and it all felt a bit too dutiful and congested. I much prefer Angela de la Cruz's work, with its painful humour, honesty and knockabout abjection. But De la Cruz's work seems to me to be at a moment of transition. Having only recently returned to work following a debilitating stroke, her ensemble of recent and older paintings and sculptures was as much a statement of intent as a fully achieved exhibition. Last month, de la Cruz won a coveted £35,000 Paul Hamlyn award. This is as valuable and prestigious as winning the Turner Prize.

Like De la Cruz, the wider exposure of the art of the Otolith Group collective has been valuable. It is as though Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar wanted to make life as hard on the audience as possible. I took a perverse delight in the fact that they made us work at their art, which is as erudite as it is sensual, as sexy as it is filmic. But they have an almost academic streak that makes one think one is in a classroom or study centre.

Philipsz is the first artist working with sound to have won the prize. I can imagine people saying she is just a singer, with the sort of voice you might feel lucky to come across at a folk club. But there is much more to Philipsz than a good voice. All singers, of course, are aware of the space their voice occupies, of the difference between one hall and another. We know it ourselves, singing in the shower. But the way Philipsz sites recordings of her voice is as much to do with place as sound. She has haunted the Clyde and filled her box-like Turner installation with the ballad Lowlands; she has called across a lake in Germany and had her voice swept away by the wind on a Folkestone headland.

Her current Artangel project, Surround Me, insinuates itself down alleys and courtyards in the City of London, her voice like an Elizabethan ghost, singing melancholy works by John Dowland and other 16th and 17th century composers. I have stood in shadowy old courtyards and between gleaming office blocks, weeping as I listen. And how many artists can you say that about?

Her sense of place, and space, memory and presence reminds me, weirdly, of the sculptor Richard Serra at his best. Her art makes you think of your place in the world, and opens you up to your feelings.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Who should win the Turner prize?

Sound artist Susan Philipsz may be the bookies' favourite, but Angela de la Cruz, Dexter Dalwood and the Otolith Group are also strong contenders. Ahead of tonight's announcement, who gets your vote?

When it comes to predicting the winner of the Turner prize, I have appalling form. One year I was convinced that Phil Collins's brilliantly sardonic TV project about Turkish reality shows was going to win (it didn't). In 2008, I quite fancied Cathy Wilkes's chances (Mark Leckey went on to win). So when I tell you that my favourite for this year's award is Angela de la Cruz, who makes awkward, funny sculptures that don't quite do what they're meant to, my advice is: don't listen to anything I say.

The betting is, of course, hardly the point. And some would argue that, when the shortlist includes work as different as painting, film, sculpture and sound, choosing a winner at all doesn't make much sense. But that's prizes for you, and – like it or not – a winner will be chosen later this evening, in the full glare of the world's press, at Tate Britain.

A reminder about who's in the running. There's Dexter Dalwood, who paints scenes that many of us have imagined (the death of Dr David Kelly, Jimi Hendrix's basement, wartime Iraq) but never seen. Dalwood has his fans – you lot said he should win – but Britain's newspaper critics aren't among them: Richard Dorment of the Telegraph called his work "cack-handed paintings of imaginary landscapes and interiors", while our own Jonathan Jones said back in 2000 that "if this is what they mean by painting, I hope it goes away soon". Then there's The Otolith Group, Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, who make erudite, multi-strand work drawing on the history of cinema and social movements. Their room in the Turner prize exhibition contains a 45-minute film made of fragments of other films, a row of TV sets playing an obscure documentary about Ancient Greece, and a densely packed book. Easy to digest it certainly isn't; maybe that's the point.

The next room in the show is de la Cruz's, and contains a number of new paintings that have been torn apart or otherwise subjected to violence. They're called things like Deflated and Clutter, and squat anxiously in the gallery as if they're embarrassed to be there. I love her work – the wit as well as the sadness of it – but there's a feeling that perhaps this isn't her year. I guess we'll find out. The fourth artist to be shortlisted this year is Glaswegian Susan Philipsz, whose contribution to the show you hear long before you see it. Actually there isn't anything to see, just three loudspeakers and a bench; it is a piece of sound art, recordings of the artist singing slightly different versions of a Scottish medieval ballad. Mysterious and enticing, sorrowful and enigmatic, these songs overlap and intermingle, echoing around the room and out into the gallery beyond. The bookies tell us that Philipsz is the favourite to win – a good result, if only because it will be the first time that sound art has received this kind of recognition (and if you want to find out more about what she does, we ran a video interview with her last Friday).

The judges are meeting this afternoon to decide, and the waiting will be over for the rest of us at about 7.50pm when the ceremony is broadcast on Channel 4 News. Both Charlotte Higgins and I will be tweeting snippets live (follow us at twitter.com/andydickson and twitter.com/chiggi; we'll use the #TP2010 hashtag). We'll have news and reaction as soon as we can, pictures as soon as we get them, and tomorrow morning we'll have a video digest of the night's events. In the meantime, you could watch Adrian Searle's video tour around the exhibition, read Laura Cumming's astute review, or test your wits with our Turner prize quiz. And of course we want to know what you think. Have you seen the show? Did it pass muster? Who do you reckon should win?

Oh, one final thing: you haven't seen any of the artwork and still feel like posting that it's a load of old nonsense, I'm afraid Twitter's IanVisits has already got there: he suggests using #YouCallThatArt, #MyKidCouldDoBetter, #ItsRubbish or #WhatAWasteOfTime as tags. Enough said.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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