Northern Art Prize 2010

Lubaine Himid artwork

Lubaine Himid artwork

Leeds City Art Gallery has an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art – plenty of Walter Sickert, Francis Bacon, Sir Stanley Spencer and Wyndham Lewis up the staircase – so it’s the perfect host venue for the Northern Art Prize exhibition.

Last weekend I braved the snow to cross the Pennines and have a gawp at this, the fourth year of the prize.

Here’s how it works: curators at museums and galleries nominate up to 24 visual artists from across the north, who are then whittled down to 4 by a panel of judges. The shortlisted artists’ work is then exhibited across several rooms in Leeds City Art Gallery and one winner receives £16,000.

In fact the Northern Art Prize exhibition hits you before you even enter the first room as Haroon Mirza’s installations can be heard throughout much of the building. He’s piled together a buzzing TV set, a fuzzy, foreign radio broadcast, a looping record player and some chunky furniture to create a dislocating sound that’s intended to play on the boundary between hearing and listening.

It’s clever and well executed, but like much sound and video art it’s intrusive on the rest of the exhibition. Haroon’s soundscape can’t be easily blocked out as you try to concentrate on the other three finalists’ work.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later I was at the impressive Nottingham Contemporary gallery and immediately recognised the piled-up furniture and electronic contraptions as Mirza’s work. It seems his distinctive installations are hot right now, a state of affairs presumably not harmed by the Turner Art Prize being awarded to sound artist Susan Philipz this year.

The pick of the show for me, however, was Lubaina Himid’s dainty miniature figures exhibited next to, and being dwarfed by, ceramic cups and bowls. Make your own mind up as the Northern Art Prize continues until February.

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1 Comment »

  1. Auntysocial said

    See – I’m one of those uncouth, ignorant people who will stand at art exhibitions looking like I’ve just supped a pint of last week’s milk. I don’t get it.

    The “Lubaine Himid” artwork – What the frig???

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