The Turner Prize – the UK’s most prestigious award for excellence in Contemporary Art – recently upped sticks from its usual Tate-based venues, and travelled up north to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. On 21 October, there was an exclusive opening party and the opportunity to get a glimpse at the four shortlisted pieces; naturally enough, So So Gay were at the front of the queue.
The BALTIC is a striking building, a former flour mill with pre-war architecture married lovingly with a modern glass and steel front. Inside is a treasure trove of modern art, with previous exhibitions featuring masterpieces from Yoko Ono, Sam Taylor-Wood, Anish Kapoor and Spencer Tunick. However, for seventy seven days, the third floor of the gallery has been taken over by the Turner Prize, with the four shortlisted artists each displaying their nominated pieces.
Walking into the exhibition, the first entry is that of Modernist sculptor Martin Boyce (featured image). Nominated for his previous solo exhibition in Zurich, his beautifully precise and striking piece Do Words Have Voices forms the centre piece of his trapezial exhibition, with the ceiling disappearing in a forest of white, and the floor scattered with brown crepe paper in the form of abstract leaves.
Continuing through, you’re met with an array of LCD monitors suspended around the room, each named by Hilary Lloyd as Moon, Shirt, Tower Block and Floor, with each piece featuring a representation of the title. Multiple moons dance around the screen, while buildings glide around. This piece is nigh-on impossible to describe, to fully appreciate the visual wonder presented on the screens, you need to take time out to stand and gaze.
Next up is Karla Black’s Doesn’t Care In Words, a delightfully eclectic mess of paper, pastel, bath bombs, and paint. As it pours down from the ceiling, visitors get the opportunity to walk under the paper, and view the piece from a variety of angles. Chalked and painted acetate-like substances hang down, as paper peaks its way around the room. An enigmatic piece, cleverly presented in the gallery, gives the feeling of being a child again; playing with wrappings from boxes, or weaving your way around this magnanimous display.
On a somewhat smaller scale, but by no means smaller in impression, is the final nomination; a showing of George Shaw’s works from his travelling exhibition. His works are of equal size (allegedly maintaining the dimensions of the television set that Shaw had as a child) and are all constructed using Humbrol Enamel (the same paint used on Airfix models). This gives them a gorgeous hardened look, with a slight gloss. The paintings (which all feature areas on a Coventry housing estate) are all scrupulously painted, with titles such as Landscape with Dog Shit Bin, Poet’s Day, and The Age of Bullshitprovoking thought.
After relaxing in the Turner Prize cafe, and watching the Channel 4 artist interviews, we decided to retire to the bar to gaze upon the colourfully lit quayside, and to discuss our findings over a few beers. The BALTIC has definitely proven that it’s a world class venue on the Contemporary Art scene; fantastic curatorial skills have shone through, amazing support for educational visits has been provided, and working with the Turner Prize Partners, they’ve advertised this exhibition magnificently.