The Hot 100 2011 - No. 7: Martin Boyce on winning the Turner Prize
The Glasgow artist on Glasgow School of Art, fame and the future
This year’s Turner Prize winner, the third Glasgow artist in as many years to scoop the award, seems typically unfazed by his new-found acclaim, writes Neil Cooper
Unlike his work, Martin Boyce doesn’t appear to have any angles. Two days before scooping the 2011 Turner Prize for A Library of Leaves, his 2010 show at Zurich’s Galerie Eva Presenhuber, the Hamilton-born, Glasgow School of Art-trained maker of desolate and often decimated imaginary futurescapes sounds quietly relaxed about the whole bunfight.
‘Everything’s done and dusted, really,’ a chirpy-sounding Boyce says of Do Words Have Voices, an impressionistic imagining of a park in autumn that forms his contribution to the Turner show at the Baltic, Newcastle. ‘I’m just polishing my shoes and pressing my socks.’
The last two years has seen Boyce’s cache rise with a series of elaborately wide-open constructions drawn from the same parallel universe that informs both these exhibitions. Boyce represented Scotland at the 2009 Venice Bienale with No Reflections, presented by Dundee Contemporary Arts. This year’s Modern Institute show, the deliciously titled night terrace – lantern chains – forgotten seas – sky, evoked hinted-at sense memories with a tangible sense of mood and place. In all, what Boyce has described as ‘a collapse of architecture and nature’ takes place in woozily epic environments cast adrift in a topsy-turvy world.
Boyce is the third Turner winner on the trot to either have trained in or be based in Glasgow. In his acceptance speech, while praising his alma mater, Boyce made clear it was his GSA peer group, which included 1996 Turner winner Douglas Gordon and 2007 shortlisted artist Nathan Coley, that was of prime importance.
‘I remember at the time thinking everyone around me was amazing,’ Boyce says, ‘and they are. Some people were definitely out there knowing what to do, then there were people like me, watching and learning.’
If anything, Boyce says, the Turner hoo-hah over the last few months has only distracted him from working on Screams and Lighthouses, a forthcoming collaboration with filmmaker David Mackenzie and Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra saxophonist Raymond MacDonald. Set to be performed at Tramway, Screams and Lighthouses allows each of these artists to explore one another’s practice.
‘We’ve been on this long adventure,’ Boyce explains. ‘The whole thing’s about improvisation, with no real aim in mind. So, while David won’t be making a film, there will be filmic elements, but the whole thing’s partly to find somewhere we can all be in the same place.’
As for the effect of the Turner, Boyce is typically understated.
‘The nicest thing about it is being able to tell your mum and the people you talk to when you drop the kids off at school. They know what the Turner is. But I think the reality is that you go back to what you were doing before. You maybe get more invitations to go on panels or whatever, or get asked to say what your top ten movies are [sure enough, a top ten of Boyce’s favourite songs has already appeared on art publishers Phaidon Press’ website], but for me personally, I’m really not sure what difference it makes.’