LONDON — A Scotland-based painter who destroys his large-scale wall murals after they have been exhibited won Britain’s best-known art award, the Turner Prize, Monday.
Richard Wright said he was surprised he beat three other finalists to win the annual 25,000 pound prize, which was announced at London’s Tate Britain gallery. The award was presented by British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
“I’m shocked — is there another kind of reaction?” the artist said. “I wasn’t expecting it, not at all.”
Wright is known for painting intricate, large-scale patterns on walls or ceilings, as well as for his insistence that his work be destroyed after the exhibitions end. He said he gave up painting on canvas because those paintings were “rubbish” and didn’t represent who he was.
Judges said they admired the “profound originality and beauty” of Wright’s work, saying his paintings were rooted in the fine art tradition yet “radically conceptual in impact.”
“Wright uses elaborate and labour-intensive methods to create transient works that respond directly to the architecture and context of a space,” they said in a statement released by Tate Britain. “His works come alive as they are experienced by the viewer.”
It was 49-year-old Wright’s last chance to win the Turner, awarded annually to a British artist under 50. The prize, which always inspires fierce public debate about the nature of art, is named after 19th-century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner and was established in 1984.
Wright said he sometimes felt a sense of loss at the destruction of his work.
“It is sad but it’s also a relief,” he said. “Other people make things that don’t survive. If you are a dustman or a reporter you do something that is consumed and passes.”
Wright beat bookie favourite Roger Hiorns, 34, who transformed a derelict London flat with thousands of litres (gallons) of crystal copper sulphate. The work, “Seizure,” drew thousands of art fans to a run-down housing estate in south London earlier this year.
The short list also includes London-based Enrico David, 43, an Italian-born artist who creates installations, sculptures and drawings inspired by everything from traditional crafts to 20th-century surrealism, and Lucy Skaer, 34, who works in London and Glasgow and creates drawings, sculptures and films.
Past winners include “Brit Art” upstarts such as transvestite potter Grayson Perry and shark pickler Damien Hirst.
On the Net: www.tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize