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Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Richard Wright in front of his gold-leaf fresco at Tate Britain. Photograph: Linda Nylind
Scottish painter Richard Wright has won this year’s Turner Prize, one of the most coveted contemporary art awards in the UK. The artist’s work consists mainly of murals created in gold leaf and paint, including large-scale frescos designed to fit exhibition spaces, one of which is currently on display at the Tate Britain. The one-wall creation took four weeks to paint, but as he paints directly on gallery walls, this, like his other works, are not permanent and will be destroyed when the exhibition ends. Speaking to the BBC, Wright said he was interested in “the fragility of that existence”, and the temporary aspect of his work would only “heighten the experience of it being here”. Clad in tartan trews, Wright said he was surprised and touched by the reaction of those who came to see his work at the Turner prize exhibition "perhaps expecting art to be awful". He said: "That [positive reaction is] what I wanted to happen. It's not about winning the prize. To make his untitled wall painting for the Turner prize exhibition, Wright employed the painstaking techniques of Renaissance fresco-makers – drawing a cartoon on paper and then transferring it to the wall in what he called "an incredibly medieval way" by pouncing – piercing the cartoon with holes and rubbing chalk through it to create "the ghost of a work" on the wall. The image was then painted with size (adhesive) and covered with gold leaf. Despite the toil involved, when the show closes at Tate Britain on 3 January, the work will be painted over in white emulsion and lost for ever. The temporary nature of the piece is deliberate: none of Wright's wall paintings is intended to survive the immediate circumstances of its commission. "I am interested in the fragility of the moment of engagement – in heightening that moment," he said. To see a work knowing that it will not last, he said, "emphasizes that moment of its existence". Asked how he felt to experience the destruction of his work, he said: "Sometimes I feel a sense of loss; sometimes of relief." Wright could be seen as the opposite to the kind of Turner prize contenders who captured headlines and provoked controversies at the peak of the YBA boom. By their nature, his works, which cannot be transported, bought or sold, exist outside the art market. Each is created for a particular environment. For the Turner piece he was inspired by memories of traveling from Scotland to London to visit the then Tate Gallery on the overnight bus – one night to get to London, a day in the gallery looking at a single work, and a night back. So, though the golden fresco, seen from a distance, is an abstract shape, close up you can make out shapes that suggests sunbursts or clouds that recall the landscapes by Turner, or Blake watercolors that can be seen elsewhere in the gallery. At 49, this was Wright's last chance to win the Turner prize, for which artists only under 50 are eligible. Born in London in 1960, he moved to Scotland as a child, and studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and, in the 1990s, at Glasgow School of Art.
Posted by BBI at 4:11 PM