Saturday, July 21, 2018

Turner Classics

Credit: 'Poets Day', 2005/6, by George Shaw
A painting from George Shaws 2011 Turner prize exhibiton

It's Turner prize time again, that ultimate bench mark of high brow accolade in British contemporary Art, or as plummy art critic Brian Sewell once noted-"as inevitable as the pantomime at Christmas."

Former Turner prize winners have included such notable entries as Rachel Whiteread's plaster cast interior entitled with obligatory irony-'House' and Chris Offli's 'No woman no cry', a primitive portrait decorated with dry elephant dung.

This year promises to be rather more subdued-though no less a sensation-with the tabloids in on the joke with the usual fake apoplexy-Karla Black's painted bin liner sculptures, Martin Boyce's wonky bin. Trash if you like.

One of the entries this year however, is a practitioner of traditionalism-someone whom you could say is a true recipient of an award for whom the prize was named after-a landscape painter.

Much has been made of George Shaw's materials, because he doesn't use oil or acrylic-rather the Humbrol enamel that model makers use. His subject matter is the Coventry council estate were he grew up in, or those beleaguered eye sores on the peripheries-the dog turd on the pavement, expletives graffitied on a wall. It's all rendered immaculately with the sterility of a photograph, and I daresay meant to be some ironic statement about lost heritages, and the shadowy corners that lurk in forgotten towns.

Except there is nothing romantic about lowly provincial life, no mystery in the filth of urban sprawl-it's a skewed viewpoint as naive as the airfix kits the paint was meant for, as detached as painting it from the secluded idyll in Devon, where he now resides. Its also literally soulless, for there are no people in Shaw's paintings. Perhaps that's the whole point-but I don't think so.

To my mind its as cliche as the shopping cart in the park lake, the traffic cone on the town hall statue-post modern 101-all done before by every amateur photographer and far better by art yob Banksy.

For all its technical bravado-sadly-Shaw's work is no different then than the other entries in this years prize-making an artform of grim poverty, and the elevation of the mundane, as some conciliatory artifact of the times.

What a further insult then to that percentage of a speculated 90,000 visitors,emboldened by a desire for a cultural pick me up who leave the gallery and return to what Shaw refers to as 'somewhere, where very little happens.'

The Turner prize is announced December 6th

About the Writer

David Van Gough is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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