The 2023 Turner Prize has been announced, naming Oxford-based artist Jesse Darling (b. 1981) as this year’s winner. Darling is known for a practice that spans drawing, performance, installation, sculpture and text, using a “materialist poetics” to explore and reimagine the technologies that we live with. The artist was nominated for his solo exhibitions No Medals, No Ribbons at Modern Art Oxford and Enclosures at Camden Art Centre. No Medals, No Ribbons is the largest presentation of the artist’s work to date, in which a series of consumer goods, construction materials, fictional characters, religious objects and mythical symbols propose alternative ways of thinking and being. Previous exhibitions include Miserere at St James’s Piccadilly, London (2022) and Gravity Road at Kunsteverein Freiburg, Germany (2020).
No Medals, No Ribbons combines industrial materials with everyday items to explore the boundaries of home and state. Darling traces the line between function and dysfunction and domestic and institutional spaces. The resulting artworks show a society in breakdown, swinging between growth and collapse. Recognisable objects are contorted into familiar, unsettling forms. A rickety roller coaster bends into the shape of a mammoth. Union Jack flags, made from tea towels, rise up from piles of disused ring binders. Mobility aids, twisted into strange shapes, slump and crawl across the floor. These works, spanning ten years of Darling’s practice, highlight how systems of power such as government, ideology, technology and religion, can be as fragile as living things. The work, on display at the Towner Eastbourne, responds to the state of British coastal towns, 67% of which fall into the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) higher income deprivation category. The artist explains walking around Eastbourne, describing “closed shops, a lot of poverty, and a lot of old white people waiting to retire; you can see the effects of devastating austerity and class divisions.” The resulting show observes topics of identity, nationhood and power.
The jury, chaired by Tate Britain’s Director Alex Farquharson, praised the artist for a presentation that “unsettles perceived notions of labour, class, Britishness and power.” Farquharson noted, “There’s a sense of timeliness with all the work, and in that sense I think it’s a really good year. Everyone in their separate ways, feels of the moment.” Shortlisted artists for the prize also include Barbara Walker, presenting an exhibition on the Windrush scandal, Rory Pilgrim, for his RAFTS commission and live performance and Ghislaine Leung, for her conceptual installation that explores consumption and production. Darling, who accepted the award at the Towner Eastbourne, explained to the BBC: “You have to love something to be able to critique it. I was born in this country and I’m looking at what’s going on here. I wanted to make a work that reflected that, and I wanted to make work about Britain for the British public.”
The Turner Prize 2023 will be on display at the Towner Eastbourne until 14 April 2024.
All images courtesy of Jesse Darling at Towner Eastbourne. Photographs: Angus Mill