The Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing has been given a top university honour in recognition of her contribution to the arts. The acclaimed artist returned to her home city of Birmingham to collect an honorary doctorate awarded by Birmingham City University at a ceremony held in the city’s Symphony Hall.
Wearing has been widely recognised for her work in conceptual art but today donned formal robes to collect her accolade alongside students from the University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Media during a ceremony held at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.
In 2014 she created the ‘A Real Birmingham Family’ sculpture, which sits outside the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, having previously been famed for her work including ’60 Minutes Silence’ which won her the 1997 Turner Prize.
She said: “I’ve never received anything like this before and it’s absolutely fantastic and a great honour to be here today.
“Being from Birmingham it’s actually the first time I’ve had any qualification from the city because I left college without any qualifications at all, so although this is an honorary award, it means an awful lot because it recognises my achievements.”
Wearing created the £100,000 ‘A Real Birmingham Family’ public artwork in 2014 to represent the diversity of modern families.
The sculpture, based on local sisters Emma and Roma Jones, depicts two single mothers alongside their children.
In 2011 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Honours list also recognising her contribution to the arts, while she has been nominated for the Human Rights Art Award (2015) and the Vincent Award (2014) over the last two years.
Speaking to students graduating in creative arts subjects, she said artists had to keep being passionate about their subjects and keep producing work during difficult times.
“Some people will be going into jobs in the area that they’ve been studying but for some other people they might have to take a job that’s unrelated to maybe pay their way to make their works.
“So there will be lots of different choices to make when they leave but you have to be very, very persistent in doing the things that you’re passionate about.”
Wearing’s other work includes a collection of photographs entitled ‘Broad Street’ showing teenagers drinking at several bars and clubs along Birmingham’s popular nightlife hub, to depict how alcohol contributes to the loss of inhibitions, insecurities and control.