Simon Sterling’s ‘Tabernas Desert Run’, and (bottom) Darren Almond’s ‘Meantime’.
a. -.:. ‘
Alongside Jim Lambie, three other artists are up for the most glamorous prize in British art. Among them is the brilliant SIMON STARLING, who lives in Glasgow and Berlin. Alex Kennedy assesses the runners and riders.
im Lambie’s Modern Institute stable-mate
Simon Starling creates installations that
bring together scientific. geological and social research. They're like A+ geography projects. His work is generated out of webs of correspondences and experiences. where the metaphysical ‘inner necessity‘ that once fuelled artists‘ work is deconstructed. fragmented into an almost—logical planned and plotted pseudo- science. The gallery becomes a depository for the products of his complex schemes.
At first glance. Starling‘s work relates more closely to the Land Art tradition of the 70s. where the documentation of works that have been constructed ‘outside the gallery‘ always found its way back in as a substitute. In ‘Tabernas Desert Run'. 2004. he handbuilt a hydrogen and solar-powered motorised bicycle and drove it across a Spanish desert to a cactus grove. where he collected and used the by- product of the fuel — pure water — to paint a cactus in watercolour. For the subsequent work ‘Three Day Sky”. the energy that was generated during the journey was used to spray sky-blue paint over the ceiling of the gallery.
Starling also represented Scotland in the 2003 Venice Biennale (along with Lambie and Claire Barclay). In ‘Island For Weeds‘ Starling symbolically freed Rhododendron ponticum (which was introduced to Scotland in I753 and now grows as weeds). planting the bushes on a barge in the middle of a rococo palace in Venice. Although these projects appear to be eccentric. hair-brained schemes. a pattern does emerge: Starling questions concepts of place. originality and authorship. problematising the search for origins. The quest for answers always leads back to the quagmire of personal inner necessity. In Starling‘s case this includes a deep-seated fascination with modernist design. a passion to
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improve the world's ecology. and an equally deep desire for making adventurous joumeys.
It would be unfair and provincial not to mention Darren Almond and Gillian Carnegie. who are also nominated for the Turner Prize. Wigan-bom Almond draws on the themes of time and history — moments of time that can be perceived as both significant and insignificant. He has linked Pentonville prison to the ICA. London. with a live video broadcast where the viewers could ‘do time' and experience a split second’s worth of what it must be like inside. He was nominated due to the strength of his mini-retrospective in K2] in Dusseldorf. where he exhibited clocks. fans and a bus stop.
Carnegie is the most traditional artist in the shortlist and. oddly enough. this could be her strongest reason for winning. Her paintings unashamedly explore the meat of painting — the qualities of paint and the guilty rearguard enjoyment of applying it to canvas. The shock of a figurative painter winning could be enough to generate interest. If the public expects dead sharks and dirty bed sheets. why not give them a lovely still life painting instead?
Who will can)l off art‘s big prize? It's never wise to speculate. as fans of Simon Patterson discovered when he was the bookies' favourite to win in I996. only to be pipped at the post by what many Londoners thought of as the ‘unknown‘ Glaswegian. Douglas Gordon. But if we had to stick our necks out. in the first year when two Scots have made it onto the shortlist. The Lisr's money would be on the art world‘s own egghead eco-warrior (and bookies‘ outsider). Simon Starling.
TURNER IN HIS GRAVE
The Tate '3 annual prize has single-handedly catapulted art onto the front pages of the tabloids. Alexander Kennedy looks at the art that the shocked the media, if nobody else.
Mad Tracey from Margate (Tracey Emin) mixed medication with booze in 1997, before taking part in a live televised debate. She stole the show from winner Gillian Wearing in the ﬁrst all-women shortlist. After shouting the odds with art critic David Sylvester she meandered off set hollering: ‘I want to leave. I’ve got to go somewhere. I’m going to leave now. Don’t you understand? I want to be free. Get this fucking mic off.’
Chris Ofili (winner in 1998) shocked a few nuns by propping a painting of the Virgin Mary up on some Elephant dung. He had covered it in glitter, sequins and stuff to try and make the whole thing more palatable. Even though he won. he's still going to hell.
On... and off. Is that bulb about to blow? Martin Creed, winner in 2001, presented Work No 227: The lights going on and off, where, well, lights went on and off. And for those stationery fetishists amongst you, what about something a little bit more substantial: Work No 88: A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball, or Work No 79: some Blu- Tack kneaded, rolled into a ball and depressed against a wall?
F Is an old man in a nice .3 frock still controversial? v 2003 winner Grayson . Perry‘s big pots depicted " scenes of cross-dressing i and paedophilia. When ' Claire (Perry’s alter ego)
a. received the prize she was wearing a delightful pink party frock covered in rabbits. hearts and the ‘ legend ‘sissy'. which set him back £2500. And with $320,000 for the winner. you could buy a fair few lovely evening gowns for that.
It’s Mad Tracey again, this time with her 1999 installation of an unmade bed, around which is strewn empty fag packets, knickers and even (gasp) a tampon. This may well be an everyday sight for many of us — but put it in an art gallery and it’s tabloid news. Tracey didn’t win the prize - but ‘My Bed’ made this the best- attended Turner Prize exhibition yet held at the Tate.