Anna Fox

 

Tomorrow, the 17th March, the Deutsche Borse Prize is announced.

Two artists up for this year’s prize can fill us with humour and optimism, two others serve the cold reality of human’s strategic antagonism and ability to destroy. It depends on which worldview you prefer.

THE COLOUR OF FOX AND LEONARD

Anna Fox’s bright works are full of love and wonder but they aren’t winners … not yet. Fox has too many ongoing projects that it would be counter intuitive to make her the Deutsche Boss.

The appeal of Fox’s work is obvious part Richard Billingham, part Cindy Sherman, large part Martin Parr. Fox observes congested cupboards, Mothers Day flowers, plastic dolls and emphatic interior details with awe but without irony. All her work is colourful and her later photography staged (Country Girls). Fox’s work is a celebration of that British penchant for chintz and pattern that is rarely brought into focus. While it is distancing, Fox’s work is not distant. Necessarily the ugly brocade of a parents’ generation is balanced by the crayons of the kids’ generation, Fox’s work is unifying. It’s a winner but a winner in its mid-development, so not a winner for now.

 

Zoe Leonard

 

Zoe Leonard has a keen omnicultural view that picks out the additions and modifications that humans make to their world. Surely, it is Leonard’s wandering eye which casts wonderment upon all nations that is the attraction of her work?

Like Fox, Leonard is interested in human ingenuity. Both artists are optimistic about the utility and purpose of things. For Fox and Leonard things, as curious and benign as they may be, are material objects that budded elements of creativity and graft.

Leonard’s worldly view is generous and progressive but is it a fair reflection of our world?

THE DARKNESS OF WYLIE AND RISTELHUEBER

On the other side of the equation, Wylie and Ristelhueber – with restrained palettes – throw down their documents of strife and its aftermath with dominating conscience.

The choice you must make between the two is simple. Do you go for Wylie’s final phase ‘Troubles’ of Northern Ireland or do you go for Ristelhueber’s sprawling and ongoing multinational survey of carnage?

Do you prefer your battles contained or dispersed? Can violence be enclosed, bright-burning and abated between walls, or is conflict slower – continually popping and maiming in every country and on any old road?

 

Donovan Wylie

 

 

Sophie Ristelhueber

 

As Ristelhueber opens up space Wylie closes it down. As Wylie describes literal containment Ristelhueber prowls the unnerving territory of psychological containment. Ristelhueber’s Blowups series of craters after IED and car bomb explosions are chilling and very effective.

The ultimate difference between these two artists is that Wylie offers reprieve. Wylie recently declared his image of the Maze’s last wall to be demolished his “Best Shot”. Everyone is aware of Wylie’s Northern Irish heritage and H.M.P. Maze carries more meaning for him personally than it may for us. Wylie documented the prison’s decommission and demolition over a period of eight years. He hopes that the work be simultaneously a record of the site and a “metaphor for the peace process”.

Ristelheuber’s document of violence seemingly has no limits or borders, a notion of violence that is depressing but accurate for today’s globalised military engagement. Where do we find a peace process here? Which road or road-map do we follow here?

If Wylie’s work references the remnants of a political battle, Ristelhueber’s is record of ongoing skirmish. Ristelhueber’s photographs of blockades and bomb-craters are images not unlike those of the Northern Irish Troubles so we can identify a lineage there. However, hers are not photographs from 35 or even 15 years ago; Ristelhueber’s work shows us the violence of the 21st century.

Some might favour the distant and deadpan of Wylie’s aesthetic, but for me, for its immediacy and for its relevance, Ristelhueber should take the prize.

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