Helen Marten, one of the four artists chosen for this year’s Turner Prize shortlist, works across a range of media, though mainly sculpture, interweaving historical and contemporary references into her pieces. Her sculptures are recognisably contemporary – she is undoubtedly a masterful bricoleur – and she works with a highly self-critical eye to create arrangements which result from a great deal of forethought and an enormous amount of reading. Marten is a self-proclaimed bibliophile whose extensive reading list forms the background for her work which she painstakingly sketches and plans out before beginning to make each of her sculptures.
Her work often displays a unique sense of humour and self-awareness and it is not unusual for her exhibitions to take a thematic bent, her most recent show at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery – Drunk Brown House which ran until the 20th of November – was particularly influenced by her research into medieval pharmacology. The exhibition marked a return to the location where she first gained serious notice in London. During Park Night in 2011, Marten screened her film Dust and Piranhas (2011) a tale of inanimate architectural objects made animate who rapped in response to that years Serpentine Pavilion by architect Peter Zumthor.
Dust and piranhas from Adam Sinclair on Vimeo.
This year has been a particularly successful one for Marten whose work is owned by several collections including MoMA in New York and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino, Italy. On the 17th of November 2016 she became the first ever winner of the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture which is awarded to a British or UK-based artist who has made a significant contribution to sculpture. Marten was the youngest of the nominees and after winning announced that she wished to share her £30,000 prize with her fellow nominees.
Marten lives and works in London and is represented by Sadie Coles in London, Greene Naftali in New York, König Galerie in Berlin and t29 in Rome. She studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford, 2005-2008 and Central Saint Martins, 2004. Her solo exhibitions include; Eucalyptus, Let us in, Greene Naftali, New York (2016), Parrot Problems, Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (2014), Plank Salad, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2012) and Evian Disease, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012). She also exhibited during the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.
The winner of the Turner Prize will be announced on the 5th of December 2016. The other nominees are Michael Dean, Anthea Hamilton and Josephine Pryde.
Amy E. Brown
Feature Image: Helen Marten, Dust and Piranhas (video still), 2011, digital animation video with sound, 25 min. Courtesy of the artist.