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Rosebud, 2103  James Richards Rosebud, 2013 James Richards

A brief report from the 2014 Turner Prize and Ric Bower sheds tears that Phyllida Barlow s dock is not on for longer at Tate Britain.

The Turner Prize is on show at Tate Britain nowuntil the 04 January. The winner will be announced on 01 December and, if there is any justice at all in the world, it will be a Welshman who walks away with the cheque.

James Richards' film Rosebud greets you as the flappy doors leading into the Clore Gallery slap you on the back. It is an approachable work, replete with a comfy viewing bench, a single flat screen and sensibly placed quadraphonic speakers. Indeed, Richards offers something the other three artists, who have been shortlisted for the 2014 Turner Prize, are for the most part struggling to find, and that is restraint. He employs no tricky, bleed-down-a-grey-wall projection paths (Tris Vonna-Michell); no self-consciously analogue 16mm, portrait format projector (whichalso happens to kick out a lively 89db of mechanical whirr: Duncan Campbell) and every available square inch of his allotted gallery real estate is not pasted with 'meaningful' content (Ciara Phillips).

Richards has resisted the temptation to 'subvert the physicality of the image making process', it's just a straightforward film, and a mercifully short one at that. The film approaches, amongst other things, the inherent difficulties in communicating sensory perception. Japanese library books, which have had their erotic content crudely erased, are a recurring motif. Ironically, the frenetic scratchings to the printed surface accentuate the very act they are attempting to obscure. Never has Mapplethorpe been so accidentally erotic!

Richards uses the restriction of the cinematic frame to bridle the viewer s curiosity further. His camera locks off on sections of images, frames pressing suggestively into frames. The various visual strands that Richards employs are effectively intertwined through his decision to make the film in black and white. The intimate notches and inflammations he depicts, if rendered in colour, might otherwise not have looked out of place in a medical textbook. The vagaries of human arousal are explored further through a slow appraisal of the ruts and grooves in an antique engraving; the representational functionality of the undulating line is rendered irrelevant by the rich layers of association Richards places on them.

In the adjacent room there is more 'show and tell' with projected instructional stills appropriated, from what looks like it could be, a film school special effects manual. The fake wounds become hyper-real as they are distorted by enlarged offset-litho rosettes, tangoed flesh tones and breathy projection equipment.

Perhaps I should say something meaningful at this point about the other shortlisted artist's work. Sugar levels were however at a post-Megabus low and there is only so much video art, hear me now curators, that a human can take without a medicinal doughnut.

Something I have learned from this year's Turner Prize is that proper artists nowadays work with analogue equipment. It's good to know. And here was I was thinking that that the slightly tedious analogue/digital conversation had run out its natural course. I guess, if you are working with 16mm, it shows you are, at the very least, a practitioner of means.

 

dock, Phyllida Barlow, Tate, 2014 dock, Phyllida Barlow, Tate, 2014

Speaking of money, earlier in the year Phyllida Barlow maxed out her credit card at B&Q and this was the last weekend to view the resulting visual mayhem created, for her Tate Commission in the 100m Duveen Sculpture Gallery. The gargantuan assemblages wouldn't pass building regs in a favela. The bonkers explosions of faux-industrial lunacy were undoubtedly the consequence of 25 oversized toddlers finding the keys to the methamphetamine lab in the Tate basement. Victorian marble gallery context and improv content balance perfectly though and it is Barlow's breathtaking mastery of space that all this polythene, 6"x 4"s and Styrofoam are there to serve. The language and motifs of the dockyard have been playfully plucked before being expertly folded into fantastical all encompassing verses of physical poetry. Wow! Can't you keep it open for a while longer Tate Britain? Pretty please?

James Richards is currently showing in A Giant, Whose Shoulders I Stand On, curated by Bob Gelsthorpe as part of Cardiff Contemporary

There will be an interview with James Richards by Donna Lunas of Wysing Arts in CCQ issue 5.

Image credits: Rosebud 2013, James RichardsCourtesy the artist, Cabinet, London and Rodeo, Istanbul dock, Phyllida Barlow, Tate, 2014