VIDEO artist Elizabeth Price has been awarded this year’s Turner Prize for her “seductive” installation show that included a film inspired by a deadly fire at a Woolworths store in Manchester.
Price admitted she was “surprised” to win after the jury chose her over Scots-born video artist Luke Fowler, performance artist Spartacus Chetwynd, and Paul Noble, a visual artist.
The Londoner, who started out as a singer with 1980s indie pop band Talulah Gosh, was presented with the £25,000 prize by actor Jude Law at a ceremony at Tate Britain in central London.
Price’s film, The Woolworths Choir Of 1979, features archive footage of the blaze that gutted the city centre store and left 10 people dead, mixed with architectural designs, film of a 1960s girl group and set to music.
The jury admired the “seductive and immersive qualities” of Price’s work and praised the way she “creates a rhythmic and ritualistic experience through her film installations combining different materials and technical vocabularies from archival footage and popular music videos to advertising strategies”.
Accepting the prestigious award, Price praised her comprehensive school education, saying her career would be “unimaginable” without public support for the arts.
She added: “When I started making the work, I didn’t know it would end up being about that subject. I believe art should be dealing with these subjects and I think art is a way to remember them.”
She also hailed the other shortlisted artists, saying they had shared a sense of “respect, camaraderie and a sense of the absurd” and thanked the Tate for making the process of being nominated “comfortable”.
She said: “It was a real pleasure to be associated with the other nominees, both personally and professionally.
“It’s incredibly depressing listening to the comments people made earlier that a young girl from Luton going to a comprehensive might not be able to imagine being an artist and might not have the opportunities I’ve had.”
Price said she can spend around a year working on an individual film before reworking them for another couple of years.
She said: “I think it takes me that long to understand precisely what I meant to give emphasis to.”
Although Luke Fowler missed out on this year’s Prize, Scots have featured heavily amongst previous winners and nominees.
The Glasgow-born video artist was shortlisted this year for his solo exhibition at Edinburgh’s Inverleith House, a showcase of his film exploring the life and work of the late Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing.
Last year, sculptor Martin Boyce claimed the Prize for his galleries of ‘alternative reality’, including square trees, straightened leaves and lopsided litter bins. Boyce studied at the Glasgow School of Art in the late 1980s alongside Douglas Gordon, who won in 1996, as did Simon Starling, winner in 2005.
The Glasgow School of Art was also the setting for the artistic beginnings of Richard Wright, whose reactive wall paintings secured him the 2009 Prize.
Glasgow-born Susan Philipsz, a former student at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, also won the Prize in 2010.
The Prize, named after 19th-century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, was established in 1984 to honor younger British artists.
It has frequently attracted controversy. Damien Hirst won the Prize in 1995 for his now infamous display of sections of a cow and calf in formaldehyde, titled ‘Mother and Child Divided’. A later piece, featuring a rotting cow and bull, was banned by New York Health officials because of fears of “vomiting among the visitors”.
In 1999, Turner Prize nominee Tracy Emin caused such controversy with her installation titled ‘My Bed’ that culture secretary Chris Smith publicly criticised her nomination, claiming they had deliberately selected ‘shock’ artistic works which were in danger of discrediting the UK art scene.
Work by the four finalists is on show at Tate Britain until 6 January.