Our City of Culture 2013 has done well here with the aesthetics. Ebrington Square and the former army barracks have been specially redesigned for the event and look fantastic. However, with this being such a coup for the city, I would have expected a glut of signage relating to the exhibition for drivers. When I eventually found the way in (on the same road as 'The Venue') even a friendly security guard remarked at my frustration, "I know, you'd think they would want people to find it". If on foot however, just walk over The Peace Bridge and you can't go wrong.
This is the art award never far from controversy and perhaps it is David Shrigley who has stirred up the brunt of criticism from the most conservative and perhaps religious commentators in this small land. His 7ft naked life model that occasionally pees into a bucket is what first confronts us on entry into the exhibition. We are also invited to sit at an easel and attempt to draw the misproportioned figure and display our efforts on the wall. I haven't attempted any life drawing in several years but took up the challenge to be part of the Turner Prize 2013 exhibition and in doing so, understood a little bit more of what Shrigley may have been trying to convey.
I know that the winner has already been announced, but I am speaking the truth when I say that Laure Prouvost's haunting film with accompanying installation was my favourite piece. I watched it 3 times through and was mesmerized.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's beautifully displayed paintings appeared at first glance to be the most conventional of the works, but on further appreciation have a much deeper narrative. I found her black skinned figures with burning white eyes to be almost arresting.
It was the offering of Tino Sehgal that left me scratching my head. No work on display, but a friendly exhibition volunteer, whose mission it was to commence a one-on-one discussion with me, 'the viewer' on the subject of 'The Market Economy'. Cue debate of 'is this art?'.
A few weeks after my visit I was listening to The Stephen Nolan show on the radio one morning and Pastor Mark Bradfield of Bethel Baptist Church Londonderry (a man who once described homosexuality as 'an abomination') was having a debate with one of Northern Ireland’s foremost artists, Rita Duffy (whose guidance I was once privileged to receive as an 'A' level Art student) about the Turner Prize 2013. Most of the discussion was centered around Shrigley's model 'peeing in a bucket' with the Pastor feeling that this was a 'most disgusting' thing for school children age visitors to see. Rita went on to say that 'Art is a reflection of everyday life and everything that we experience, and we all PISS Pastor, don't we?' I nearly spat out my morning coffee.....
I hope many school children see the exhibition and in turn may be inspired one day to inject some more life into the visual arts scene in Northern Ireland. This, can only be a good thing.