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The Times

December 16, 2003
Judges are acclaiming a ‘cutting edge’ portaiture form, writes Dalya Alberge 

Some bananas, a few needle jabs, and your art is pick of the bunch

By DALYA ALBERGE

 

A BRAZILIAN artist who draws faces on bananas has been shortlisted for one of Britain’s leading contemporary art prizes.

Tonico Lemos Auad, 35, is among ten artists shortlisted for the £65,000 Beck’s Futures award, the Institute of Contemporary Arts’ (ICA) answer to the Tate’s Turner Prize.

Auad, who also gathers up carpet fluff that he shapes into squirrels and headless human beings, faces competition from Nicoline van Harskamp, who gets uniformed guards from Marks & Spencer and elsewhere to stand around in a gallery, Susan Philipsz, who broadcasts songs over public address systems such as bus stations, and Hayley Tompkins, who doodles “mucky marks” on to school graph paper.

Beck’s Futures, now in its fourth year, has been described by critics as “the hippest, hottest art prize around”. This year’s candidates come from Britain, Bulgaria, Brazil, the Netherlands and Turkey, whittled down from 200 entries after impassioned rows between an international panel of artists and curators.

The judges, who include Katrina Brown, curator at Dundee Contemporary Arts, and Dan Cameron, senior curator for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, will pick the 2004 overall winner in April.

Inspiration came to Auad when he was doodling one day while on the telephone. He found himself drawing on a nearby banana. He realised that the fruit became bruised. He now creates his imagery by pricking bananas with needles.He said: “Once the drawing is made with the needles, the oxidating process will make the drawings clear. It’s bruising the fruit. The scars actually are the drawings. With the days, it becomes darker and darker and more clear.”

He draws faces and words such as “big time”. On one bunch, he wrote “real friend”, “only friend”, “boy friend” and “girl friend”. Grapes have also fed his imagination. He is currently showing a bunch of them at the Dublin Project Arts Centre: “For each grape taken out from the bunch, there is a gold spot where I’ve plucked the grape, as if there is gold inside. I glued on a gold spot.” Of his interest in carpet fluff, he said: “It came from my observation on how much carpet is used in London. It is in every place such as toilets, which I was unfamiliar with. I’m playing with the idea of the creative doodle process. I just pull it with my fingers.”

Philip Dodd, the director of the institute, likened the banana faces to Picasso’s work: “They’re quite extraordinary. What you get is that sense of everyday life being seen differently. Shagpile carpets and banana eyes. He’s making sculptures out of the detritus of the carpet. He’s turned the banana into something strange and wonderful. The everyday is suddenly transformed into the magical.” Klaus Biesenbach, one of the judges, said: “For the past 15 years Britain has been a pace-setter for the international art scene. The jury this year engaged in passionate discussions to fill the ICA galleries with exciting new works by a selection of cutting-edge artists from all over the world who’ve chosen the UK as their home and workplace.” An exhibition of the shortlisted artists’ work is at the ICA in London from March 26 to May 16.

It will then travel to the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow.

BECK’S FUTURES SHORTLIST

Haluk Akakce: Born 1970 in Ankara, Turkey. Based in London. Trained at the Royal College of Art. Uses digitally animated videos to create three-dimensional, large-scale fluid, abstract forms projected on to walls.

Simon Bedwell: Born 1963 in Croydon, South London. Based in London. Trained at Goldsmiths College. Combines “found” posters and original hand-painted canvasses, to which he adds provocative slogans.

Ergin Cavusoglu: Born 1968 in Bulgaria. Based in London. Trained at Goldsmiths College. Video artist who specialises in “voyeuristic” images of nightlife on city streets.

Andrew Cross: Born 1961 in the Cotswolds. Based in London. Trained at Bath Academy of Art. Film-maker obsessed with “nerd culture”.

Tonico Lemos Auad: Born 1968 in Belem, Brazil. Based in London. Trained at Goldsmiths College. Sculpts animals from new-carpet scrapings and uses needles to draw on bananas.

Nicoline van Harskamp: Born in 1975 in Hazerswoude, the Netherlands. Based in London. Trained at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Has a fetish for men in uniform and an interest in surveillance in urban life, through which she comments on issues of social control.

Saskia Olde Wolbers: Born 1971 in the Netherlands. Based in London. Trained at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Video artist who recounts epic tales set against subjects such as childbirth and mental illness.

Susan Philipsz: Born 1965 in Glasgow. Based in Belfast. Trained at University of Ulster, Belfast. Broadcasts recordings of herself singing, unaccompanied, at public spaces such as a Tesco store in Manchester and a bus station in Belfast.

Imogen Stidworthy: Born 1963 in London. Based in Liverpool. Trained at Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, the Netherlands. Explores the origin of the voice, in one instance documenting the treatment of a man suffering from hypertension of the larynx whose voice had to be physically squeezed from his throat.

Hayley Tompkins: Born 1971 in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Based in Glasgow. Trained at Glasgow School of Art. A painter who creates small-scale abstract works using watercolours on wood and various papers. Also uses dots, lines, slashes, lettering and simple shapes to highlight the precision of marks on white space.