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By Sasha Ward
Dr. Elizabeth Price, a lecturer in fine art at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, has been awarded this year’s Turner Prize. The artist, and alumni of the school, received the £25,000 prize at a Tate Britain reception last week.
The Bradford-born artist is also a Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, a position she has held since this October, and completed her undergraduate studies at the University. Price had spent the morning of the Turner Prize presentation interviewing fine art candidates at LMH.
Price was awarded the prestigious annual prize for her immersive video installation, ‘The Woolworths Choir of 1979’ – a work portraying a fire in a Manchester Woolworths shop, in which ten people died. The work uses existing archives of music, photographs, video footage and text, and combines footage of the fire with clips of the 1960s group the Shangri- Las, and an exploration of Gothic architecture. The video was one of the works included in Dr. Price’s recent solo exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, entitled ‘HERE’. The aim of her exhibition was to explain our relationship to consumer culture.
Jason Gaiger, head of the Ruskin School of Art, commented: “I am thrilled for Elizabeth, whose work demonstrates the vitality of contemporary art practice, and its ability to address themes of enduring social significance. Elizabeth is an inspirational teacher, who has made invaluable contributions at both undergraduate and graduate level.”
He added, “She is taking a leading role in the further development of the Ruskin School, including the launch of a master’s programme and the integration of Fine Art research into the wider academic community.”
The winner used her acceptance speech to criticise the government’s stance on education, warning against the marginalisation of the arts. She also gave an impassioned defence of arts education in British universities.
“These views are long held and I hope to take them with me and to voice them wherever I work,” Price explained.”The idea of young people not making art is an incredibly depressing idea. It seems to vouch for a utilitarian and impoverished idea of education,” she stated, referring to government plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate, and the withdrawal of state funding for arts and humanities.
Price added, “I have only just started work at the University, but it is clear that Oxford provides a unique and excellent educational environment: one which I believe should be available to anyone in a position to succeed within it, regardless of their social background.”
Despite being the least well known of the four artists nominated, she was selected for outstanding exhibitions staged in the last 12 months, and the news of Price’s win has been warmly received by art critics. Will Gompertz, Arts editor for the BBC, called Price a “worthy winner” of the annual prize. He described The Woolworths Choir of 1979 as a “moving, haunting, and disturbing installation”.
The winning installation is currently on display at the Tate Britain gallery in London, where it will remain until 6th January 2013.
PHOTO/ Stills from ‘The Woolworths Choir Of 1979′ by Elizabeth Price