Turner Prize 2019 – RCA staff and alumni create bold commentary on turbulent times
The 2019 Turner Prize nominations feature two RCA alumni – Helen Cammock (MA Photography, 2011) and Oscar Murillo (MA Painting, 2012) – alongside current Contemporary Art Practice tutor, Tai Shani. From a futuristic feminist world to archival investigations into past social movements, via a materially rich comment on precarious labour – Cammock, Murillo and Shani each address social and political issues. The artists engage diverse media, from performance and installation to sculpture, moving image, and painting, exemplifying the variety of art practice supported, explored and deconstructed at the RCA.
Read on to find out more about the nominees' work, currently on display at Turner Contemporary in Margate.
Tai Shani, Contemporary Art Practice Tutor
‘Tai is the ultimate in a Contemporary Art Practice tutor, combining critical thinking and a broad approach to art practice, producing artworks that demonstrate a carefully considered relationship to ideas, theories and display.’ – Dr Melanie Jordan, Head of Programme, Contemporary Art Practice RCA
Tai Shani has been nominated for her ongoing body of work DC: Semiramis, variations of which were presented at Glasgow International 2018; The Tetley, Leeds; Nottingham Contemporary and the De Le Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea. Noted by the jury for its ability to combine historical texts with contemporary references and issues, DC: Semiramis explores themes of feminism and otherness through a gothic, science-fiction lens.
Shani describes the work as a ‘loose and expanded adaptation’ of Christine de Pizan's pioneering proto-feminist book from 1405, The Book of the City of Ladies. Using film, installation and performance, she has created an allegorical city of women, which she states is ‘for anyone that wants to live outside a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy’.
Shani is a Tutor for Critical Practice on the RCA's Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) MA programme. Discussing Shani’s nomination, Head of Programme and Reader in Art and the Public Sphere Dr Melanie Jordan, commented:
‘We are very excited to see Tai shortlisted for the Turner Prize, it demonstrates that they know what they are doing! Tai is the ultimate in a Contemporary Art Practice tutor, combining critical thinking and a broad approach to art practice, producing artworks that demonstrate a carefully considered relationship to ideas, theories and display. But more than that, her works are full of humour and wit and are constructed in a way that leaves the viewer wanting more.’
‘Tai’s engagement with performance, text, script and moving image enables her to create works that make you want to keep on watching, listening and reading. Ultimately her works turn performance into the performative and therefore they muck up our expectations by proposing new social relations of art.’
Oscar Murillo (Painting, 2012)
‘Murillo is not singularly interested in an issue, but the range of his concerns – identity, hybridity, difference, dislocation and decolonisation – are compressed and concentrated in the frenetic energy of a materialist ritual.’ – John Slyce, Senior Tutor, Painting RCAOscar Murillo’s Turner Prize nomination was for Violent Amnesia at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Oscar Murillo/Zhang Enli at chi K11 art museum, Shanghai; and his participation in the 10th Berlin Biennale. As part of his contribution to the Turner Prize exhibition, Murillo transported 20 papier-mâché effigies from London to Margate on the train with the help of a team of volunteers. Installed in the gallery on church pews, these waiting, life-sized figures are part of an installation exploring themes of labour and migration.
‘Murillo’s paintings are a central component of his expansive practice and form the strong vertebrae of his studio-based production,’ explains MA Painting Senior Tutor John Slyce in Vitamin P3: New Perspectives in Painting (2016). ‘He works additionally with performance, installation, drawing, film and video, although it is primarily through painting that Murillo unpicks concerns with form, materiality and the intricacies of composition.’
‘His paintings absorb, accrue and record a concentration of interests and information compressed in one place [...] Murillo is not singularly interested in an issue, but the range of his concerns – identity, hybridity, difference, dislocation and decolonisation – are compressed and concentrated in the frenetic energy of a materialist ritual.’
Helen Cammock (Photography, 2011)
‘Helen's approach to print is exactly the boundary challenging understanding that suits our course identity.’ – Professor Jo Stockham, Head of Programme, Print RCAHelen Cammock was nominated for her solo exhibition The Long Note at Void Gallery, Derry (2018): a film about the history and role of women in the civil rights movement in Derry Londonderry in 1968, a period generally acknowledged to be the starting point of the Troubles. The Long Note expands and complicates narratives around this period, placing women's voices at the fore through archive material, newly produced footage and a series of interviews. Through this particular focus on a certain place and moment in time, the work reflects on broader global civil rights struggles, and subtly eludes to the many ways these struggles continue in different forms today.Cammock is a Visiting Lecturer on MA Print. Professor Jo Stockham, Head of Programme for Print commented on Cammock’s practice and its relationship to the programme:
‘Helen's approach to print is exactly the boundary challenging understanding that suits our course identity. She has worked with reference to found images, used postage stamps, screenprints, song, text and image and digital media in all forms. An ability to deal poetically with complex subjects of identity and power relations, her re-writings of history and focus on unheard or overlooked narratives creates space for us all to think anew about history and representation. Her generous and inclusive approach to students, some of whom performed in her work at the Whitechapel Gallery last year, contributes greatly to the education of our students.’
The Turner Prize 2019 exhibition is on display at Turner Contemporary, Margate until 12 January 2020.
Find out more about MA programmes in the School of Arts & Humanities and how to apply.