The Turner Prize for innovation in British contemporary art has been awarded to Veronica Ryan, a sculptor born in Montserrat and moved to the UK as a toddler. Ryan is also the oldest tournament winner, born in 1956.
Ryan won for her solo exhibition Along a Spectrum at Spike Island, Bristol and her Hackney Windrush Art Commission in London. Ryan creates sculptural object and installations using containers, compartments, and combinations of natural and fabricated forms to reference displacement, fragmentation and alienation. The jury praised Ryan’s highly accomplished new body of work made during a residency at Spike Island, which explores ecology, history and dislocation, as well as the psychological impact of the pandemic. The jury were struck by the exquisite sensuality and tactility of her sculptures, both in the gallery and for the public commission in Hackney.
The permanent public artwork in East London to honour the Windrush generation has cited during the award ceremony. The judges praised its poetic and evocative work which is a small section of a much bigger range of work.
Speaking to the BBC, Ryan said, “It's tremendous as an artists to win the Turner Prize and be visible and to send a message to younger artists. You must make your work because it's important to you.”
Ryan’s sculptures often make reference to her Caribbean childhood. Mysterious works focused on fruits, pods, sometimes held in thread pouches crocheted by the artist. The judges praised her for poetic work transforming items that are often lost or thrown away.
Ryan added, “It has been an incredible struggle. For 20 years no one paid attention to my work. But I grew up in a family where you recycle and you make use of things around you.”
Before this prize, Ryan was best known for the first permanent work in the UK honouring the Windrush generation, her sculptures of Caribbean fruit unveiled in East London last year, she beat three other artists to this year's prize.