Last week artist Alex Hartley took to the stage at Notting Hill’s 20th Century Theatre to collect one of six £10,000 cheques from Guest of Honour author Jeanette Winterson. This years’ theme was Art in the Elements focussing on artists who occupy the landscape, making objects, installations or even interventions in the elements rather than recording or reflecting it in their practice. Artist and judge Chris Drury commented on his winning, “Alex Hartley’s work is defiantly innovative and creative. It is ambitious, multi dimensional and takes on a lot of current issues around landscape, politics and the environment. As such it was the best choice amongst some strong contenders.”
Although signed to an established gallery Alex has for some time been producing large-scale complex artworks taking place in the public realm where engagement and interaction with the audience is built into the work. His project such as Nowhereisland (2012) eventually involved over 23,000 people from 135 countries who became citizens of a newly uncovered island discovered 10 years previously by Alex in the Arctic. They wrote their own cumulative on-line constitution with the website exploring issues such as land grab, climate change, nationhood and land art. While being towed along the UK coastline, it was greeted by local interest groups and its own travelling embassy which created the catalyst to bring together choirs, marches, flotillas.. even a bake-off!
His work also has a direct relationship with site as seen in Vigil (2014) where he built an encampment outside the 13th floor window of the iconic Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkstone. Over 9 weeks Alex and a team of volunteers watched over the town, harbour, cliffs and the sea towards France recording everything that could be seen in an hourly log. Although based in town, Vigil turned an urban environment into a wild space, treating the city as mere surface and texture and tried to generate an enquiry into belonging within the landscape.
The runners up were Amy Sharrocks, Paul Chaney and London Fieldworks who all received £1,000. They were shortlisted from a longlist of nominated British artists not for one particular project but for their work to date and future potential.
This award is an ongoing award made possible by a legacy left by sculptor and former dancer Yoma Sasburg. Five other 2015 awards were announced last week and are as follows :Spoken Word – Hollie McNish Materials Innovation (supported by The Clothworkers’ Foundation) Video & Digital for Performance (supported by the Lionel Bart Foundation) Yoav Segal, Choral Conducting : Greg Batsleer Arts Producers : Angie Bual
The Arts Foundation £10,000 award is not a commission but to be used to pay for living and working expenses, allowing the artist, who must show a track record in the art form, breathing space in order to further their practice. The Arts Foundation, was founded by an anonymous donation in 1993 and has since given over £1.6m to support artists from all walks of the arts. Previous fine art recipients include Lynette Yiadom- Boake, Hannah Starkey, Simon Fujiwara and David Harrison and Matthew Tickle.