Like a lot of people, I don’t really get the Turner Prize.
I mean, I understand that it’s a competition held annually by Tate in which a shortlist of four British artists is chosen, their works exhibited at Tate Britain, and then a winner is selected to receive the £25,000 prize money. I go to the exhibition every your, but more often than not I look at the art on show and think: really? This guy? Are you kidding me? Last year, one of the exhibits was an empty room into which snippets of Welsh folk songs were played. I think. I don’t know, but I was confused and it wasn’t enjoyable.
This year, however, it’s different.
This year, one artist eclipses all the others by such a margin that it’s a bit like if Jay-Z competed in a rap battle against 3 particularly inarticulate four-year-olds. That artist is Paul Noble.
I first came across Noble’s work in a gallery in Rotterdam with my Dad more than ten years ago. A teen at the time, I didn’t have a clue about modern art (whereas now I go to Tate Modern allll the time OK?), but on a trip to see a Dali exhibition (so, like, mainstream right?) we happened upon a room filled with huge but minutely detailed pencil drawings of Nobson Newton, a fictional townscape created by Noble. We were blown away, and I frequently thought about those amazing drawings over the years. So when I heard that Noble was nominated for the Turner Prize 2012 I was very excited.
Noble got his Turner Prize nomination for a show featuring more fictional renderings of Nobson Newton, and they’re just as breathtaking, as I discovered when I went to the exhibition last Sunday. Each is centred around one word, written in a font that makes each letter look like a building. Whether on one sheet of A1 paper (i.e. big) or spread over 20 (i.e. HUGE), they’re astonishing. You have to get really close to divine all the details and to realise the time and patience that must go into them. Tiny boulders, overlapping crop circles, meandering plants in greenhouses – the landscapes of Nobson Newton aren’t familiar and they rarely make sense, but they’re beautiful to look at.
The other Turner entries pale in comparison, they really do. In fact, I’m struggling to even remember what they were. I think they were, essentially: 1. a bunch of tiny photographs from Scotland (Luke Fowler). 2. a video about a church that made me sleepy (Elizabeth Price), and 3. a room full of photocopying (Spartacus Chetwynd). There’s a chance I’m being slightly facetious, but you get my point. Hence, why I think it’ll be a travesty if Noble doesn’t take home the bacon this year.
Have you been to the Turner Prize exhibition yet? I would love to know if you agree with me. Or even better if you disagree. I just don’t know why anyone would though.