THE WINNER of this year's Turner Prize is Simon Starling, a Glasgow-based artist whose imaginative installations will dispel accusations by critics that Britain's most well-known and controversial art prize was becoming "boringly mainstream".
Starling, 38, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, was awarded the 25,000 prize during a live Channel 4 programme from the Tate Britain in London last night. He beat the favourite, Gillian Carnegie, tipped to win with her series of "bare bum paintings".
Starling's success may herald a return to the exuberance of the days of Damien Hirst or Grayson Perry, both of whom managed to shock the jaded palate of the contemporary art scene.
The Turner Prize, which began in 1984, is the most sought-after accolade awarded to a British artist aged under 50 for "an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work".
Starling, shortlisted for his exhibitions at the Modern Institute, Glasgow, and the Fundaci Joan Mir, Barcelona, is renowned for taking a solid everyday object and transforming it through a rigorous physical process.
His Tabernas Desert Run 2004, showcased at the Glasgow gallery last year and which forms part of his Turner Prize portfolio, features an improvised hydrogen-fuelled bicycle on which he crossed the Spanish desert, and the botanical watercolour of a cactus he painted using the bike's by-product, water.
The artist, who lives in Woodlands, Glasgow, with his wife and son, was born in Epsom, Surrey, and graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1992. He also works in Berlin.
Also on display in his installation room at Tate Britain is Shedboatshed, which captured the public's imagination when a selection of Turner Prize exhibits were put on show outside the gallery for the first time. For this work, he dismantled an old boat-shed, transformed it into a boat which he paddled down the Rhine, then put it back together again as the original shed.
Last night, Starling said he was "a bit flabbergasted" to win.
He said of his artwork: "I don't like to be thought of as eccentric because that's not what my work is about. It's a serious business on many levels."
Being nominated for the Turner Prize has won him many new fans, he revealed. "I had a fantastic little poem from an elderly woman in St Albans about sheds. That's the thing about the Turner Prize - you have 80,000 people looking at your work. People engage with it and enjoy it, and that's special."
Starling said his work was all about anti-globalisation. But asked if he had any qualms about accepting a 25,000 cheque from the art establishment, he replied: "Absolutely not, no."
Explaining what Shedboatshed means, Starling said: "It's a bit of mobile architecture. It's an attempt to make an artwork which is very ergonomic and easy on the environment. It's a very simple idea."
The artist also revealed plans for his next major project: throwing a replica Henry Moore sculpture into Lake Ontario. He said: "Zebra mussels have been introduced into the lake and they are taking over and transforming the eco- system. There is a Henry Moore sculpture in Toronto called Warrior With A Shield so I thought it would be nice to throw it into the lake, leave it for six months, grow lots of mussels on it, then hang it in a gallery."
The judges said they had admired Starling's unique ability to create poetic narratives which drew together a range of cultural, political and historical references. They also stressed the strength of the exhibition at Tate Britain and their admiration for the outstanding presentations produced by all four artists.
The other three shortlisted artists - Carnegie, Jim Lambie, from Glasgow, and Darren Almond - each received 5,000. This year's prize fund was 40,000 supported by Gordon's gin.
Lambie, 41, presented a range of work which included three sculptures and the transformation of a floor at Tate Britain using vinyl tape.
Almond, 34, is famed for his photography and film installations, and his work for the Turner included a four-screen video installation.
The Scottish culture minister, Patricia Ferguson, welcomed Starling's success. "I am delighted that Simon Starling has been awarded the Turner Prize, one of the most prestigious in the world," she said.
She said the fact that two artists based in Scotland were on the shortlist and that one had won was a "reflection of the vibrant nature of Scotland's artistic community", whose artists were at the forefront of arts innovation in the UK.
However, not all in the Scottish art world are enthusiastic. In June, Julian Spalding, former director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, criticised the efforts of the Turner Prize shortlist and said he was not alone in hoping the competition was running out of steam.