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Turner Prize 2019 artwork review: what we thought of work by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani in Margate

Is a crazy arm and papier mache figures art?

It's a fair question, for your average man in the street, looking at the work of the nominees for the Turner Prize 2019.

Tai Shani's work will get you thinking
Tai Shani's work will get you thinking

The four artists' work, which is on show at Margate's Turner Contemporary, features everything from film installations to books, the spoken word and a room full of papier mache figures.

When I visited the gallery last, weeks before the world famous exhibition was due to arrive in Margate, the place was a building site.

Now, several weeks into the work of shortlisted artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani work went on show, it is a hive of activity, from the steady stream of visitors on all days that the gallery is open, to the art of local women on show in the foyer and a very tempting gift shop.

As you arrive at the gallery, greeting you is a new interactive commission on the terrace from Yuri Suzuki using AI to bring together digital sound and sculpture, with a series of colourful megaphones providing sounds.

While most visitors were appreciating this, we met a four-legged visitor stopped in her tracks and refusing to turn the corner to see what was making the sound - so maybe not one for dogs.

Oscar Murillo's figures travelled to Margate by train
Oscar Murillo's figures travelled to Margate by train

Then it's time to step inside the world of the shortlisted artists' work: it's time to suspend normal life and, instead, allow yourself to be immersed in another world, where you need to genuinely think.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan creates audio-video installations, audio-archives and performances and has created three time-based works stemming from research exploring ‘earwitness’ testimony: evidence heard rather than seen, which includes earwitness interviews with inmates of the the Syrian regime prison of Saydnaya.

KMTV reports on the Turner Prize coming to Margate

Helen Cammock's The Long Note includes a film looking at the overlooked role of women in the civil rights movement in Derry, Northern Ireland that began in 1968. The fascinating testimony had most in the black room (save for the screen) gripped, though it would have been useful to know how long it lasted, and whether to take advantage of the seats, or floor, or continue to stand.

Oscar Murillo's room was one of the ones I was most looking forward to, having seen his papier mache figures travelling to the gallery on the train.

Local women have been captured for the Turner Prize exhibition in Margate
Local women have been captured for the Turner Prize exhibition in Margate

The figures represented a mobile and globalised workforce, thanks in part to their journey o the gallery, along with the blacked out seaview. It was interesting, if tricky, to interpret and understand, to be truthful.

Tai Shani's work was the last on our art and culture journey and, after seeing pictures of what looked like a crazy arm, the one I was the most unsure of. For Turner Prize 2019, Shani presents a new installation version of DC: Semiramis. This four-year project takes inspiration from Christine de Pizan’s 15th century proto-feminist text The Book of the City of Ladies and creates a future world born of an alternative past.

For us, it was, unexpectedly, the most thought-provoking of the four - though all four made us think - and had us, with the video installation, strange and mind-bending objects and music - pondering the longest. We could have sat and considered the work for hours, I think.

What sound do you hear on seeing this?
What sound do you hear on seeing this?

In the corridor outside, there was a small display of accompanying work by the artists. Lawrence's pictures of objects which create sounds in our heads (acoustic memories) when we see them - such as a bell or a bottle of Irn Bru, was something which kept us fascinated.

The exhibition is on until the New Year and, regardless of who wins, is worth a look. Besides an excuse to visit Margate, and a one-off for the county, it will, without question, get you thinking.

The prize and the Margate gallery are both named after painter JMW Turner and the winning artist will be unveiled at the ceremony live on the BBC, on Tuesday, December 3, and presented by Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful.

The Margate NOW festivities, running alongside the price, finish onSunday, January 12, when the Turner Prize exhibition also closes at Turner Contemporary.

To find out what’s going on in the county and for all the latest entertainment news click here.

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