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Mark Wallinger (born 1959) is a British artist, best known for his sculpture for the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, Ecce Homo (1999), and State Britain (2007), a recreation at Tate Britain of Brian Haw's protest display outside parliament. He won the Turner Prize in 2007.[1] In October 2010 he and 100 other leading artists signed an open letter to the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt protesting against cutbacks in the arts - he created a new work, "Reckless", for the protest.[2]

Life and career

Mark Wallinger was born in Chigwell, Essex. His formative schooling, from the age of 11, was undertaken at West Hatch High School, Chigwell, Essex. He first studied art at the Chelsea School of Art and later at Goldsmiths College where he was also a tutor from 1986. He exhibited throughout the 1980s, and later showed work in the Young British Artists II show at Charles Saatchi's gallery in 1993 and at the Royal Academy's Sensation exhibition in 1997. In 2000 a retrospective of his work, Credo, was exhibited at Tate Liverpool.

Early work

Wallinger's early work is noted for its social commentary, often focusing on class (social), royalty and nationalism. These works are often paintings, although by the 1990s he was beginning to use a wider range of techniques, which have continued to feature in his work since.

In 1991 Wallinger exhibited a series of full length portrait paintings of the homeless called "Capital" at the ICA in London that were bought by Charles Saatchi and later exhibited at his gallery along with Wallinger's life size paintings of racehorses. Some commentators found "Capital" patronizing - especially as the models were recognisable figures from the London art world - and that by allowing himself to be bought by Saatchi that Wallinger was selling out. These accusations had some effect on Wallinger and the direction of his later work.

Up to 1995 sport as a nexus for English national obsessions was a frequent topic of his work. In 1994 Wallinger appropriated an entire international football match at Wembley Stadium by being photographed with a large Union Jack banner with his name emblazoned on it. As a state flag the Union Flag has superiority to the Cross of St. George that most England football team fans display.

His 1995 Turner Prize nomination was largely thanks to his work of the previous year, A Real Work Of Art. This was actually a racehorse, which the racing fan Wallinger had bought and named "A Real Work Of Art" with a view to entering it in races and therefore causing this "art" to be piped into bookmakers up and down the country. It would thus be a further development of Marcel Duchamp's readymades. As things turned out, however, the horse was injured, and only ran one race.

Later work

Wallinger's later work appears to have largely turned away from his earlier preoccupations, instead apparently focusing on religion and death and the influence of William Blake. "Angel" is a video played in reverse showing the artist walking backwards at the bottom of the down escalator at Angel Underground Station while reciting the opening lines of the Gospel of John in the King James Bible. At the conclusion of the video the music of Zadok the Priest that forms part of the British Coronation ceremony can be heard as Wallinger 'ascends' up the stairs. No Man's Land, a show at the Whitechapel Gallery included several works on these subjects. Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), for example, is a slow motion video of people coming through automatic double doors at international arrivals at an airport. The video is accompanied by a recording of the famous Miserere by Gregorio Allegri. Wallinger has said that the title might be taken as a double meaning: arrival at the United Kingdom, but also at the kingdom of heaven, with a security guard playing the part of St. Peter.

As well as traditional religion, Wallinger's work has sometimes referenced myths. Ghost (2001) is a negative print of George Stubbs' famous horse painting Whistlejacket that has had a horn added to its head, thus turning it into a unicorn. Time and Relative Dimensions in Space (2001) takes a more modern myth as its subject - it is a life-sized mirrored model of the TARDIS from Doctor Who which at certain angles seems to blend into its environment.

The largest work in the No Man's Land show was Prometheus. This piece is in two parts - on the outside, in a dark corridor, is a video of Wallinger (or rather his alter-ego, "Blind Faith") sitting in an electric chair and singing Ariel's song from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. From the corridor, automatic double doors give access to a brightly lit room which has an electric chair bolted to one of the walls, giving a top-down "God's-eye view" of it. On two facing walls are large photos of fists with the words "LOVE" and "HATE" written on them, a reference to the preacher played by Robert Mitchum in the film, The Night of the Hunter, who had similar tattoos on his knuckles. A circular steel loop gives out a continuous buzzing sound.

Ecce Homo was the first work to occupy the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. This work is a life-sized statue of a Christ figure, naked apart from a loin cloth, and with his hands bound behind his back. He wears a crown of barbed wire. The sculpture was placed at the very front edge of the massive plinth, emphasising its vulnerability and relative smallness. It was quite popular with the public, and was later shown at the Venice Biennale in 2001, where Wallinger was Britain's representative.

He was one of the five artists shortlisted for the Angel of the South project in January 2008, and in February 2009 it was announced that his design had won the competition. Wallinger's design is of a giant white horse modelled on another of his own racehorses, 'Riviera Red', and has been described by his supporters as "an absolutely mesmerising conflation of old England and new, of the semi-mythical, Tolkeinesque past and the six-lanes, all-crawling present".[3]

He curated the exhibition "The Russian Linesman: Frontiers, Borders and Thresholds" at the Hayward Gallery in London, which lasted from February to May 2009.[4]

State Britain

State Britain was installed inside the Duveen Hall of Tate Britain in January 2007. It is a meticulous recreation of a 40 metre long display which had originally been situated around peace campaigner Brian Haw's protest outside the Houses of Parliament against policies towards Iraq.[5] The original display consisted of donations from the public, including paintings, banners and toys. This had been confiscated by the police under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Wallinger employed 15 people for 6 months and spent £90,000 to recreate it. He also put a black line on the floor of the Tate and through the middle of his exhibit to mark part of a 1 kilometre radius from Parliament. He stated that this marked the protest "exclusion zone", thereby making half the show in violation of the law.[6] Charles Thomson of the Stuckists pointed out that the actual exclusion zone ends before it reaches the Tate, so no law-breaking was involved.[7]

In 2007, he won the Turner Prize for this work — this was his second Turner Prize nomination.[1]

Personal life

Wallinger is married to the artist Anna Barriball. They live in South London.[citation needed]

Notes and references

1. ^ a b Higgins, Charlotte. "Bear man walks away with Turner Prize", The Guardian, 3 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
2. ^ Peter Walker, "Turner prize winners lead protest against arts cutbacks," The Guardian, October 1, 2010.
3. ^ Gayford, Martin. "Think of England: Mark Wallinger talks about Ebbsfleet", Apollo (magazine), 2008-07-01. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.
4. ^ Baron, Scarlett. 'Mark Wallinger Curates', Oxonian Review, 2009-03-09. Retrieved on 2010-12-29.
5. ^ Street, Ben "The State We're In" Artnet Magazine, Feb. 8, 2007.
6. ^ Kennedy, Maev "Tate's anti-war display crosses legal line into no-protest zone" The Guardian, 16 January 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
7. ^ Thomson, Charles "As we like it" The Guardian 19 January 2007. Retrieved online 3 February 2007

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