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Sculptor Veronica Ryan wins Turner Prize for works exploring Windrush and Covid

Sculptor Veronica Ryan after being announced the winner of the Turner Prize at St George’s Hall in Liverpool (Danny Lawson/PA)
Sculptor Veronica Ryan after being announced the winner of the Turner Prize at St George’s Hall in Liverpool (Danny Lawson/PA)

Sculptor Veronica Ryan has been named the winner of the Turner Prize 2022 for her work which honours the Windrush generation and explores the Covid pandemic.

The Montserrat-born British artist, 66, was awarded the annual £25,000 prize for the “personal and poetic way she extends the language of sculpture” through found and usually forgotten objects and crafted materials.

Sculptor Veronica Ryan celebrates after being announced the winner of the Turner Prize at St George’s Hall in Liverpool
Sculptor Veronica Ryan celebrates after being announced the winner of the Turner Prize at St George’s Hall in Liverpool (Danny Lawson/PA)

Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer Holly Johnson presented the award at a ceremony at St George’s Hall in Liverpool on Wednesday.

Ryan was recognised for two projects. One was her commission by Hackney Council to make the first permanent public sculpture in the UK to honour the legacy and contributions of the Windrush generation.

On a street in Hackney, north-east London, the three-piece marble and bronze work, Custard Apple (Annonaceae), Breadfruit (Moraceae) and Soursop (Annonaceae), recognises tropical fruits which are widely grown in the Caribbean and the Americas.

She was also recognised for her new body of work Along A Spectrum, which explores perception, history and personal narratives, as well as the psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Windrush Generation sculpture
Veronica Ryan with the first permanent UK public artwork dedicated to the Windrush Generation at Narrow Way Square in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Works produced for the exhibition included pieces cast in clay and bronze; sewn, tea-stained and dyed fabrics; and bright neon crocheted fishing line pouches filled with a variety of seeds, fruit stones and skins.

The jury praised the “noticeable shift” in her use of space, colour and scale both in the gallery and public spaces.

Born in Plymouth, Montserrat in 1956, Ryan has exhibited across the world and was made an OBE for services to art earlier this year.

Fruit, seeds, plants and vegetables are recurring sculptural objects in her installations, representing displacement, fragmentation and alienation.

Turner Prize
Fruit, seeds, plants and vegetables are recurring sculptural objects in her installations (Turner Prize/PA)

The three other shortlisted artists – Heather Phillipson, Ingrid Pollard and Sin Wai Kin – were all awarded £10,000.

The jury praised all four nominees for their “strong and varied presentations” which they felt had all “pushed the boundaries of material exploration through unravelling the complexities of body, nature and identity”.

Helen Legg, the director of Tate Liverpool and co-chairman of the Turner Prize jury, told the PA news agency that the jury thought it was the right time to recognise Ryan’s practice as they felt she was “making the strongest work” of her career.

She said: “The jury felt that they had an exceptionally strong shortlist but it came down to the fact that it felt as though now was a really vital time for Veronica’s practice.

“The jury spoke about how you could feel in the exhibition that this was a practice in a constant state of development, that she was experimenting, that there was this compulsion to make that she has.

“She’s making constantly when she’s travelling, when she’s in the gallery, when she’s at home, and that you could feel that vitality in the work.”

Veronica Ryan
Veronica Ryan (Holly Falconer/Turner Prize/PA)

Legg added that Ryan’s work makes many references to the history of sculpture and spans a variety of themes which allows for personal interpretation.

She said: “She’s interested in psychology and migration, loss, trauma, movement, nurture, there’s a lot in there about mother-daughter relationships.

“And all of those threads seem to be interconnected in her practice so it’s very difficult to say ‘Veronica Ryan’s work is about this’ because it’s about many things and it’s about all of those things brought together.”

A free exhibition of the four shortlisted artists is being held at Tate Liverpool until March 19 2023.

This year’s Turner Prize collection is being held at Tate Liverpool to mark 15 years since the award was first held in the city.

Tate Liverpool was the first gallery outside London to host the prize in 2007 when it helped launch the city’s year as European Capital of Culture.

Last year Array Collective, a group of 11 Belfast-based artists whose work is a response to issues affecting Northern Ireland, made history by becoming the first Northern Irish winners of the prize.

The Turner Prize, named after the radical British painter JMW Turner, is one of the world’s best-known prizes for the visual arts celebrating British artistic talent.

Veronica Ryan’s name is projected on to Liverpool’s Radio City Tower after she was named the winner of the Turner Prize
Veronica Ryan’s name is projected on to Liverpool’s Radio City Tower after she was named the winner of the Turner Prize (Danny Lawson/PA)

Established in 1984, the prize is awarded to a British artist for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work.

High-profile winners have included Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen.