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Turner Prize 2013 shortlist: Is David Shrigley an artist? and other thoughts | reviews, news & interviews

Turner Prize 2013 shortlist: Is David Shrigley an artist? and other thoughts

Turner Prize 2013 shortlist: Is David Shrigley an artist? and other thoughts

Always interesting for who it leaves out, but at least this year's shortlist won't disappoint for familar names

David Shrigley, Headless Drummer, 2012© David Shrigley, Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery

“Is David Shrigley an artist?,” a journalist asked at Tate Britain’s Turner Prize shortlist announcement this morning. Well, many would say so, though The Arts Desk critic Judith Flanders  had her own reservations after seeing his Hayward Gallery show, Brain Activity, for which he was nominated. “Just because the work’s funny, doesn’t mean it’s not serious”, was the short-shrift response of Tate Britain director and chair of judges Penelope Curtis. Her reply showed how seriously she was prepared to take the question.

Some people were thrilled by these interactions, some decidedly embarrassed

With an edgily existential glumness softened by whimsy, Shrigley’s off-beat, crudely drawn animations can be both amusing and affecting. And seeing his scrappy drawings en masse adds to their cutely, crudely disarming power. His sculptures, on the other hand – a stuffed Jack Russell carrying a placard with the words “I’m Dead” is his best-known one – either make you giggle or leave you bemused. In other words, you either get Shrigley’s humour or you don’t. I guess our critic didn’t. Humour, as we know, is quite funny like that.

The second big name is Tino Seghal, the artist who hired a bunch of people to run about and chant in Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Hall last year. During each performance gallery visitors were approached by individual performers who attempted to engage them in conversation by relaying personal anecdotes and stories. Some people were thrilled by these interactions, some decidedly embarrassed. My own response ranged from feelings of social awkwardness to indifference – perhaps the indifference was simply part of my defence. I really didn’t like being approached.

The fact the exchanges were part of an “art performance” made me stubbornly resistant to it. Spontaneous conversations with strangers can indeed be thrilling, or simply just very nice, but I would have thought it’s the genuinely unexpected aspect of these interactions that’s the life-affirming bit. And without the dangerous thrill of “anything could happen” it actually felt flatly predictable. And isn’t there something of the puppet-master about Seghal that should bring out the rebel in all of us? Evidently not. In any event, what’s more gimmicky than a performance developed under such a strict veil of secrecy? He never allows cameras to document them.  

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Midnight, Cadiz 2013The two lesser-known artists are Laure Prouvost, who recently won the Max Mara Prize For Women and who is nominated for an installation featuring an array of brightly coloured teapots and table settings as part of the Kurt Schwitters' retrospective at Tate Britain, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye , who paints “portraits”, which are, in fact, pure fictions – though aren’t all portraits, up to a point, and “truth” the most elaborate fiction of all? The subjects conjured from her imagination are always black – a “political gesture”, she says, since “we're used to looking at portraits of white people in painting." This is true. What’s more, there is something quite bleakly arresting about her images. (Pictured above: Midnight Cadiz, 2013; courtesy Corvi Mora, London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.)

One artist seemed conspicuous by his absence. One would have thought Jeremy Deller might have made the shortlist for his very popular Hayward Gallery exhibition Joy in People. Deller won the Turner Prize in 2004, and, yes, the show was a mid-career retrospective – you don’t, after all,  win the Booker Prize twice for the same book – but he had, in fact, contributed new work. Despite my mixed response to the exhibition at the time (not to the work, just to the fact that it seemed rather tame in the gallery setting) looking back it was surely one of the strongest exhibitions of the year. Or at least stronger than the line-up we’re left with.   

However, on reflection, with Shrigley unlikely to be the artist willingly dropped, it might have felt a bit awkward to have two artists nominated for a Hayward Gallery show, especially when one of their judges, Ralph Rugoff, is the Hayward Gallery director.

Turner Prize 2013 at Derry-Londonderry as part of the UK City of Culture, from 23 October. The winner of the £40,000 prize will be announced on 2 December

Fisun Guner on Twitter

Isn’t there something of the puppet-master about Seghal that should bring out the rebel in all of us?

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Comments

Shrigley's not an artist and he isn't as funny as last night in the pub.

Noting Penelope Curtis's comment one might give the short-shrift response that just because she's not funny doesn't mean she's serious. Interesting you refer to Laure Prouvost as 'less well known'. There's seems to have been barely a project over the last two years she hasn't been involved in. Segahl is awful. Thank goodness Deller wasn't short-listed. Would have been ridiculous. And I do love him.

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