Veronica Ryan, an artist who created the first permanent public artwork to commemorate the Windrush Generation, has won this year’s Turner Prize, the UK’s best-known contemporary art award.
Ryan’s sculptures, which use both natural and fabricated objects to explore ideas of displacement, loss and recovery, were singled out by the judges for “the personal and poetic way she extends the language of sculpture.”
Past winners of the £25,000 annual prize, which goes to a British artist or one working primarily in Britain, include Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread and Damien Hirst. The other three nominees on the 2022 shortlist — Heather Phillipson, Sin Wai Kin and Ingrid Pollard — received £10,000 each at the awards ceremony on Wednesday evening.
Ryan, a Montserrat-born British artist, divides her time between New York and Bristol, where she held a show this year exploring themes of migration, history and the psychological effects of the pandemic.
Alex Farquharson, co-chair of the judges and director of Tate Britain, said on Wednesday: “The jury were excited by the recent turn in the work of an artist whose practice goes back to the 1980s. There are more elements in the space and a heightened use of colour. Humble seeds or pods, or old plastic bottles, are transformed in unexpected and subtle ways.”
The 66-year-old artist, who studied at the Slade School of Art in London, was nominated for her solo exhibition “Along a Spectrum” at Spike Island, a Bristol art gallery, and the Windrush art commission in Hackney, east London, featuring bronze and marble sculptures of a custard apple, soursop (a fruit) and breadfruit.
This year’s award ceremony, along with an exhibition of the work of the four nominees, was held at Tate Liverpool. In Ryan’s show, brightly coloured crocheted sacks hang from the walls and ceiling, containing seeds, fruit stones and fragments of plaster.
The criteria for eligibility have changed several times since the Turner Prize was founded in 1984. Five years ago, the age restriction on artists over 50 was lifted after it was introduced in 1991 to quell criticism that the prize risked turning into a lifetime achievement award. Ryan and Pollard are both in their 60s.
The Turner Prize has embraced a variety of art forms, including video, performance art, textiles, architecture and community-based art. None of the 2022 artists’ works included painting, but Farquharson said that after a recent strong period for the traditional art medium, he expected it to reappear in future shortlists. “Painting comes and goes,” he said.
Farquharson co-chaired the jury with Helen Legg, director of Tate Liverpool. The other judges were: Irene Aristizábal from the Baltic contemporary art gallery in Gateshead; Christine Eyene, lecturer in contemporary art at Liverpool John Moores University; Robert Leckie, director of Spike Island; and Anthony Spira, director of MK Gallery in Milton Keynes.
The exhibition will remain on show at Tate Liverpool until March 2023. It is the first time the award event has returned to the city since 2007, when it celebrated its year as European Capital of Culture.