Turner prize shortlist includes painter who imagines death of Dr David Kelly

Dexter Dalwood, Angela de la Cruz, Susan Philipsz and the Otolith Group nominated – but no Banksy

The death of Dr David Kelly imagined in paint, a haunting Scottish lament heard beneath the bridges of the Clyde and a history of the present told as if by a voyager on the Soviet space station in 2103 – all these are works by the artists on a lyrical, melancholic, even elegiac shortlist for the 2010 Turner prize.

And, despite the great popularity of the Banksy exhibition in Bristol last year, his fans will be disappointed. Although enthusiasm for his work was expressed publicly by one of the judges, Andrew Nairne, the street artist has not made the shortlist.

Dexter Dalwood is the artist whose work titled The Death of David Kelly might draw comparisons with hefty history paintings such as David's magisterial The Death of Marat, which depicted the revolutionary journalist's corpse in his bath after he was killed by Charlotte Corday.

Dalwood's painting, however, is quite different. It shows a tree backlit by the moon atop a little mound: an imagined vision of the scene of the weapons expert's death rather than a depiction (perhaps mercifully) of his suicide in 2003.

Dalwood, 49, has also made works called Greenham Common and Brighton Bomb, constructing scenes from descriptions in the media and exercising his theory that "history is a construction, a fiction ... I am constructing histories from a necessarily subjective view, which is no more or less real than any of the other attempts to describe that time or event".

The titles of his works, said the novelist Philip Hensher, one of the jurors for the £25,000 prize, are "tantalising", referring to paintings such as The Queen's Bedroom and Sharon Tate's House. Recent years have seen "an overt political commitment" surfacing amid the artist's interest in celebrity, according to Hensher.

This year's shortlist is unusual because it includes two painters. Angela de la Cruz, 45, a Spanish-born artist who distorts, rips, breaks and crushes her canvases to the point where they resemble sculptures as much as paintings. "She has a great love of material textures, of rich messy surfaces and complicated forms. They carry great emotional weight and they are a sheer pleasure to look at," said Hensher.

If what draws together all four shortlisted artists for the prize is melancholia and wistfulness for the past, then those qualities are particularly present in the work of Susan Philipsz, the Scottish sculptor who was once rejected by Glasgow School of Art (but accepted at Dundee).

Philipsz, 44, has been nominated for, among other works, a sound installation recently created for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. Beneath three of the Clyde bridges, passers-by could catch recordings of Philipsz singing a 16th-century Scottish lament called Lowlands Away.

Catching people unawares under the bridges, the sound had a haunting, mysterious lilt: Philipsz's work draws on "loss, longing and the power of memory", according to judge Polly Staple, the director of the Chisenhale gallery in London.

Philipsz is particularly adept at finding curious and evocative sites for her sound pieces, which invariably consist of recordings of her own pleasant, but untrained, singing voice. For an exhibition in Spain last year, a recording of her singing Syd Barrett's song Long Gone was heard by visitors entering the museum. She has also made pieces for supermarkets, bus stations and underpasses; her singing "acting as an emotional trigger for artists to reflect on their own sense of being".

Penelope Curtis, the director of Tate Britain, said today that organisers would be "flexible" if Philipsz wanted to make a piece for the Turner prize exhibition using a space other than the rooms reserved for the show.

The final name on the shortlist is that of the Otolith Group, which consists of Kodwo Eshun, 44, and Anjalika Sagar, 42. Neither is a trained artist – Eshun studied English at Oxford University and Sagar read anthropology and Hindi at the University of London.

Working primarily in film, the group – whose name comes from the term for the part of the inner ear that senses tilt – has delved into forgotten archives to uncover hidden histories, or stories of what might have been. Their film Otolith 1 imagines a world with humans, ill-adapted to gravity on Earth, who exist on space stations; it is narrated by Dr Usha Adebaran-Sagar in 2103, who reports on the present from her perspective far in the future.

The Turner prize exhibition at Tate Britain opens on 4 October 2010. The winner will be announced on 6 December 2010.


Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz: an expert view | Adrian Searle
Susan Philipsz' work makes you think about place, space, memory and presence: it opens up your feelings, says <b>Adrian Searle</b>

Adrian Searle

06, Dec, 2010 @7:45 PM

Article image
Turner prize 2010 – which artist should win? | Andrew Dickson
Andrew Dickson: Sound artist Susan Philipsz may be the bookies' favourite, but Angela de la Cruz, Dexter Dalwood and the Otolith Group are also strong contenders. Ahead of tonight's announcement, who gets your vote?

Andrew Dickson

06, Dec, 2010 @2:27 PM

Article image
The Turner prize shortlist 2010: their pictures, our words

Banksy may not have made it onto this year's Turner prize shortlist, but Susan Philipsz, Angela de la Cruz, Dexter Dalwood and the Otolith Group did. Click through to investigate their work and see the verdict from Guardian critics

04, May, 2010 @11:45 AM

Article image
Turner prize nominee Dexter Dalwood tipped by William Hill

Bookies William Hill are leaning towards Dalwood to win the 2010 Turner prize because his work is 'easy on the eye', writes Charlotte Higgins

Charlotte Higgins

04, May, 2010 @9:30 PM

Article image
Turner prize 2010: a shortlist that is half-baked | Jonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones: Only two of the four artists shortlisted for this year's Turner prize – Susan Philipsz and Angela de la Cruz – are worthy contenders. Not good enough

Jonathan Jones

04, May, 2010 @11:05 AM

Article image
Turner prize 2010: Dark nights of the soul

From mangled canvasses to disembodied voices singing Scottish laments, the entries for this year's Turner prize are mournful, tough and beautiful, says Adrian Searle. So which of the four contenders should win?

Adrian Searle

04, Oct, 2010 @5:53 PM

Article image
Turner prize 2010 – review
The 2010 Turner prize show is concise, beautifully displayed and just a little bit dull, writes Laura Cumming

Laura Cumming

09, Oct, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
Turner prize 2010 quiz: Call that art?

Are you an artworld insider, or a prize chump? Take our Turner prize test and find out

Jessica Lack

06, Dec, 2010 @1:23 PM

Article image
Turner prize shortlist – the expert view
A critical look at the work of the four candidates: two very different types of painter, a video artist and a sculptor

Adrian Searle

04, May, 2011 @7:22 PM

Susan Philipsz pulls out all the stops for the Turner prize

Clever old Turner-prize nominee Susan Philipsz: as well as showing at the prize exhibition, her work will be all over the City of London, which will surely lift her chances of winning

Charlotte Higgins

14, Sep, 2010 @9:15 PM