Modernist Autumn – Martin Boyce Wins 2011 Turner Prize

In his winning entry for this year’s Turner Prize, Martin Boyce brings an autumnal park indoors and re-interprets it in classical modernist/constructivist terms.

A large room, re-designed in every detail. White columns from which flows a designed ceiling of white shapes – “trees” with “leaves” and branches. The centrepiece is a table covered in graffiti and with a hanging mobile gently swaying.  All in stark geometric shapes yet oozing a certain romanticism. On the floor lie brown leaves made out of cut paper. The ‘park’ is complete with garbage cans re-designed into unusual modernist shapes.

This installation has its supporters and its critics. It is a space that is clearly inspired by “Nature” yet re-interpreted in classical modernist language. Boyce’s skill is in taking the brutish language of constructivist art and creating something that, through angular shapes created in synthetic, man-made materials, still manages to reproduce the softness and emotional engagement that is felt when we are in contact with ‘real nature’ (whatever that might be).

Boyce is quick to point out that his work is not political but largely driven by his emotion (see video below) but I wonder where this sort of work can take us in terms of thinking about the relationship between nature and the modern world. If Boyce can reproduce the gentleness and serenity of nature in an indoor installation made out of angular, modern materials, is the conflict between nature and the modern world real or is it something that we have created in our minds? Do we have to keep presenting nature and our modern development as enemies or can work like that of Martin Boyce inspire us to break out of our entrenched positions and see more complementarity? Are we even able to consider thinking differently?


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