Breadfruit, cherries and drag: Here’s a lip-smacking Turner Prize shortlist | Turner Prize 2022
What a great pick list for the Turner Prize. With artists who dabble in photography, sculpture, moving image, installation, performance, sound and speech, what immediately strikes me, along with their variety, are the thematic crossovers between them. One can speak of the legacies of colonialism and migration that recur in the life stories and art of Ingrid Pollard and Veronica Ryan, who both came to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1950s, and the questioning identity and place. both in their works and in that of the non-binary artist Sin Wai Kin (bought in Toronto from a Chinese father from Hong Kong and an English mother).
The ongoing environmental crisis and our relationship with the natural world are, in different ways, persistent themes in the shortlist, as are questions of identity and belonging. Our relationship to both history and place (and the history of places) keeps coming back. The same goes for the meaning of a morph between genres and categories. Pollard has spoken of her own work as a kind of mashup, while Sin talks about “bombing categories” in their drag performances, which involve a kind of slippage between performances of a kind of over-the-top, parody femininity. and the creation of a sort of self-sculpting mythology.
For a long time Pollard’s work seemed to focus on the black experience and the British countryside, on nature, nurturing and building a sense of place, while Ryan’s fruit sculptures speak to both of the variety of organic form and its use as a commodity (including its harvesting through child labor), played out sculpturally and metaphorically. Art commission Ryan’s Windrush in London’s Hackney features an oversized cinnamon apple, breadfruit and soursop, remade in bronze and marble, and she used the seeds as a metaphor for both propagation and propagation viruses and pandemics. The vulnerability of Pollard’s flotillas of paper boats, remade in ceramic, speaks of both vulnerability and persistence.
Sin and Heather Phillipson can be very funny at times, both in your face and affectionate and vulnerable. Don’t confuse their humor and irony with a lack of seriousness. Born in 1991, Sin is the youngest here, while Phillipson (born 1978) has had plenty of recent exposure with her fourth plinth sculpture of 2020 in Trafalgar Square and her 2021 commission at Tate Britain.
Born in the 1950s, Ryan and Pollard (Pollard working primarily in photography and printmaking, Ryan in sculpture) suffered the vagaries of fashion and visibility during their careers, and both continued to develop their art into their sixties. A sense of growth, renewal and reinvention are the greatest things the four artists share. This is a time when such aspirations are needed more than ever.
The work of the 2022 Turner Prize nominees will be at Tate Liverpoolfrom October 20 to March 19, with the winner being announced in December 2022 at a ceremony in Liverpool.