Richard Wright, winner of the Turner Prize. The highly intricate gold-leaf painting across one wall of the gallery is the artist’s most complex work to date. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

A graffiti artist has taken this year’s Turner Prize. It’s the sort of announcement that would normally be expected to unleash a torrent of “call that art!” rants. But surely not this time?

Richard Wright’s shimmering wall painting, a luminous expanse of intricately patterned gold-leaf that seems, as you enter the exhibition’s second gallery, almost to float upon its far wall, is the type of artwork that even a traditionalist can admire.

Wright, who at 49 is nudging the upper age limit for entrants, pays homage to the cartooning techniques of the great Renaissance artists who, tracing their pictures on to paper, then pricked holes in the surface and puffed chalk dust through them, thereby transferring their images on to the wall.

His delicately applied patterns are fundamentally abstract, but they play with figurative possibilities. You might see leaping figures, discover mathematical geometries, find peering faces or apocalyptic landscapes. But even as the mind seeks out and fixes upon a single image, it evaporates away into the background turbulence. And perhaps, more than anyone, one is reminded of the work of Turner himself — of his huge atmospheric late canvases and the depthless maelstroms of his diaphanous fogs.


Rachel Campbell-Johnston
Times Online