UK Artist wins prestigious international prize
The Cobra Art Prize 2011 has been won by British Artist, Nathaniel Mellors. The award was established in 2005 as the Cobra Art Prize in Amstelveen in the Netherlands. It is a biennial award consisting of a cash prize of € 10,000, a publication and an exhibition at the Cobra Museum. Previous winners are Joost Conijn (2005), Johannes Schwartz (2007) and Gijs Frieling (2009). The Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen is awarded to an artist residing in the Netherlands who creates innovative work that demonstrates engagement on the part of the artist. The 2011 winner will be announced at a later date.
It is given to an artist living in the Netherlands. Mellors (b. 1974) lives and works in Amsterdam. The selection commission said that the prize has was awarded to the winner for his “completely idiosyncratic imagery and the powerful impact of his work on the audience. His inventive crossovers between visual art, music, theater and text fit perfectly in the spirit of multidisciplinary engagement of the Cobra artists.” An exhibition of Mellors’ work will open at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen in December.
Last spring, the ICA in London presented the first major solo exhibition in a UK public institution of Mellor’s work. In recent years, Mellors had produced a distinctive body of work that combines video, sculpture and writing. The complex relationship between language and power was a recurring theme in his multifaceted work, typically manifesting itself in absurdist, humorous narratives which reveal a penchant for satire and the grotesque. For the ICA, Mellors installed Episodes 1, 2 and 4 from his new video series Ourhouse (2010-) alongside the animatronic sculpture, Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse). Mellors also programmed events in association with Mark Pilkington’s Strange Attractor and Junior Aspirin Records.
Ourhouse was set in a manor house in the English countryside. The series portrays the Maddox-Wilson family, an eccentric grouping whose roles and relationships begin to shift after the arrival of ‘The Object’ (an imposing male figure that the family fail to identify as a human being) arrived in the house and began to consume and excrete their books. In doing so, The Object takes control of language within the house. The themes that are played out in the ensuing episodes are the product of the ingested, half-digested texts.
Mellors combined a number of approaches, including drama, sculpture, film-making and music, to formulate an individual language with which to address contemporary issues. The basic scenario of Ourhouse was influenced by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema (1968). Ourhouse stars Richard Bremmer alongside Brian Catling, Gwendoline Christie, David Birkin, Johnny Vivash, Benedict Hopper and Patrick Kennedy. It hybridises Mellors’ interest in linguistic manipulation and absurdism with the form of the TV drama series. Its ambitious production approach has evolved from Mellors’ recent commission for BBC One The 7 Ages of Britain Teaser (which featured David Dimbleby performing alongside a prosthetic replica of his own face). The many layers and nuances that comprise the Ourhouse series also demonstrate Mellors’ interest in sculpture, particularly as it represents the objectification of ideas; the way forms can come to displace the ideas they purport to represent. Photo: © ArtLyst 2011