Ulster Graduate Wins Turner Prize

7 December 2010

A University of Ulster graduate has become the first  sound artist to win the Turner Prize for Modern Art.

Glasgow-born Susan Philipsz completed a Master of Fine Art at Ulster’s  Belfast campus in 1994 before embarking on her early career at the  Catalyst Arts Centre in Belfast.

Susan, who is currently working in Berlin, uses her own voice to create  uniquely evocative sound installations. She has recorded three separate  versions of a traditional folk song, Lowlands Away, which tells the tale  of a man drowned at sea who returns to tell his lover of his death.

It was first performed beneath three bridges over the River Clyde in her native Glasgow, but for the past two months has been playing in the white void of the galleries at Tate Britain.

She was one of four artists in the running for the £25,000 award. Other  works included a painting of the scene where scientist David Kelly died,  a collection of broken canvasses laid on top of each other and a series  of films.

The prestigious win underscores the artistic reputation of the  University’s School of Art and Design, which boasts a further five  Turner Prize nominees among its alumni and staff.

Willie Doherty, a Professor of Video Art in the School of Art and  Design, has been nominated twice for the Turner Prize in 1994 and 2003;  former lecturer Declan McGonagle was nominated in 1987; Christine  Borland, a sculptor, was shortlisted in 1997, video artist Phil Collins,  was nominated in 2006, and sculptor Cathy Wilkes, was shortlisted in  2008.

Alistair Wilson, MFA Course Director at Ulster, who taught Susan  during her time in Belfast, said: “The Master of Fine Art course at the  University is no stranger to success in relation to international art  prizes in general and the Turner Prize in particular, having been  responsible for six individual nominees from the body of staff and  alumni over the life of the competition.

“Susan Philipsz however has become the first alumnus to win the £25,000  prize outright. We are very proud of the record of our past students in  this prestigious international showcase and Susan’s nomination and  ultimate success is particularly sweet.

“This success justifies the unequivocal approach to professional  practice and international research which the MFA course aims to foster.

“We always encourage students to think strategically in relation to  developing a career pathway and in Susan’s case in particular this award  is the result of years of hard work in the development of her art and  her professional profile.

“All of those associated with the Master of Fine Art at Ulster - both  past and present - are delighted at this news today and I am sure that  there is more success to come.”

Professor Ian Montgomery, Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and the  Built Environment added: “To have a winner of the most widely recognised  contemporary arts prizes in the world among the alumni of Ulster’s  School of Art and Design is a fantastic achievement.

“We whole-heartedly congratulate Susan on winning the Turner Prize and  also on her success in becoming the first sound installation artist to  do so. This tremendous win augments the national and international  reputation of the School of Art and Design and of our MFA course.”


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