Chair of judges praises 31—year—old artist, who recently won Hepworth prize, for baffling sculptural work which ‘reflects the condition of the world’
Helen Marten has sealed her position as one of the U.K.’s most exciting young artists after being named the winner of the 2016 Turner prize, her second big award in the space of a month.
The 31-year-old artist, who was born in Macclesfield, was presented with her £25,000 prize by the writer Ben Okri at a ceremony at London’s Tate Britain gallery.
It comes only weeks after she won the £30,000 Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. On that occasion Ms. Marten announced from the stage that she would be sharing the winnings with her fellow artists and she later confirmed she would be doing the same thing with the Turner Prize.
“I don’t feel I need to politicise that gesture,” she said. “I can do it quietly.”
She won for work which baffles gallery goers as much as it grips and delights them. Ms. Marten creates complex sculptures from a bewildering array of materials and invites people to investigate them as they might an archaeological dig.
Ms. Marten said she was feeling “numb” after being named winner, but “deeply honoured.”
Part of her did not want to win, she admitted, and she did not enjoy the media spectacle and publicity — “it can only be unhealthy and difficult for the people involved.” But the amount of people seeing her work had proved interesting and educational.
It may even change the vocabulary she uses in her work, Ms. Marten said. “It makes you realise that the art world as a whole is operating in a very hermetic bubble of sign language that is not necessarily generous to a wider public audience which is not initiated in that kind of language or visual information.
“Putting something here and seeing what the public perception of it is is very humbling and educational, it makes you think maybe my work is not universal, maybe the themes I’m employing are not immediately understandable.”
The chair of judges, Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, said Ms. Marten, who is based in London, was making work which had real longevity and was using objects, forms and images in a similar way to a poet using language. “The judges were impressed by the complexity of the work, its amazing formal qualities, its disparate materials and techniques and also how it relates to the world ... how it often suggests meaning, but those meanings are all in flux somehow. One image, one form becomes another.” Marten’s work resists being pinned down and that is a good thing, said Mr. Farquharson.
“It is like experience of the world in real time, it reflects a complex world, not one that can be boiled down to singular statements or buzzwords.” — (c) Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2016