Ex-Boxer Christopher Gray Wins The Influential XL Catlin Art Prize 2016

Christopher Gray

The XL Catlin Art Prize has been won this year by the highly original ex boxer Chris Gray. His work is an animated film with added puppetry which depicts compassion and violence. It was truly original and engaging. He commented, “I feel overwhelmed with happiness right now and amazed that I’ve won the prize. I have so much respect and admiration for the XL Catlin Prize; to win it is a massive honour for me and it’s built up my confidence as an artist. The work I do is quite controversial and to get this support is a really big thing. This piece is to do with fictional violence and I have been looking in mainstream cinema and how it’s quite prolific. Society to a large extent has become de-sensitised to violence.  Once you put violence in a different context, you become sensitive to it again”. This is a case of, OK… this is where the artist has to decide… how far do I want to go? Mr Gray could be the next Nick Park or Steve McQueen. He needs an agent or a major gallery to push him to the next level, of his potential. I see it coming! This man could be an Oscar contender or at least make the grade of  an A-list gallery roster! Jamie Fitzpatrick was the winner of this year’s Visitor Vote in an extremely close-run contest.

2016 has been the strongest line up of artists in memory, with at least four close calls and three that could have taken the prize in any given category in any year. Celebrating its 10th year, this curated exhibition is now a firmly established institution and one of the most important events for emerging art in the UK. The prize and exhibition is an influential showcase for the most outstanding artists from UK art schools. Lets hope the support holds out as this prize has garnered support from a wide audience od art professionals and enthusiasts.

This year’s finalists are: Rory Biddulph (Slade School of Fine Art, MA Fine Art), Jude Crilly (Royal College of Art, MA Sculpture), Jamie Fitzpatrick, (Royal College of Art, MA Sculpture), Christopher Gray (Goldsmiths, BA Fine Art & History of Art), Jane Hayes Greenwood (City & Guilds of London Art School, MA Fine Art), Hamish Pearch (Camberwell College of Arts, BA Sculpture) and Neal Rock(Royal College of Art, PhD Painting by Practice).

Selected from the annual XL Catlin Art Guide for their potential to make an impact in the art world over the next decade and beyond, each finalist is commissioned to produce an ambitious new body of work. Forming the panel this year is acclaimed artist and former Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner; Senior Curator of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Helen Pheby PhD; and Vanessa Carlos, founder and director of Carlos/Ishikawa.

Justin Hammond, curator of the XL Catlin Art Prize and author of the XL Catlin Art Guide comments, Imagine a medieval Punch and Judy starring in a video nasty and you’re halfway to Christopher Gray’s Death by Chair. There’s a perverse theatricality to this exhibition, from Jamie Fitzpatrick’s mechanised effigies to Rory Biddulph’s masked demons. Oversized objects, like curious stage props, distort perceptions, while an unseen menace lingers in the back of Jude Crilly’s Mercedes-Benz.

A panel of judges have selected one artist to receive an award of £5,000 at a private ceremony on Tuesday 17th May. The public also have its say: votes cast via a ballot box at the Londonewcastle Project Space had a place in determining the winner of the £2,000 Visitor Vote.

Christopher Gray (Goldsmiths, University of London, BA (Hons) Fine Art & History of Art) Christopher is a former boxer. He makes short, often bloody, films on the subject of fictional violence. Other filmed performances focus on intense bouts between his boxer puppets and he compares the experience of performing live to the adrenalin rush of entering the boxing ring before a fight. New work will use puppets made from chicken skins to realistically replicate human flesh. He explains the making process: I remove the skin from a whole chicken. Then I break the bones and realign them so they resemble the skeletal structure of a human. I cut the flesh of the chicken to re-shape it into the form of a human body and sew it together to make it taut, then I turn the skin inside out and sew it tightly over the flesh. Chris is helped by his 20 year daughter with the filming of his practise. 

Jamie Fitzpatrick  winner of the 2016 visitor vote prize (Royal College of Art, London, MA Sculpture) In 2015 Jamie was announced as winner of the sculpture category at the Saatchi Gallery’s UK/RAINE: Emerging Artists from the UK and Ukraine. Other recent group shows include The Future Can Wait, Bloomberg New Contemporaries and Which one of these is the non-smoking lifeboat?, the culmination of an artist-in-residence programme at Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre. His solo exhibition, (loudly) chomp, chomp, chomp, opened at VITRINE in February 2016. 

Rory Biddulph (Slade School of Fine Art, University College of London, MA Fine Art) Rory recently presented All Have Noses, a two-man show with Rhys Thomas held at Fat Relic. Since completing his Masters, he has taken part in a number of group exhibitions, includingClifford Chance Postgraduate Printmaking in London 2015: A Survey Exhibition. A new series of large, heavily-layered paintings for the XL Catlin Art Prize 2016 will ignite a punk DIY language of fly-posters, fanzines, amalgamated imagery and clashing countercultures.

Jude Crilly (Royal College of Art, London,MA Sculpture) Jude’s multi-disciplinary installations embrace sound, performance, writing, live encounters and object making. In 2015 a commission to produce an audio piece and accompanying video for the Transformation Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery, led to a series of collaborations with techno producers on Calais Bounce. Describing her collaborative approach, she says: It’s a way of creating a system of players which become part of the work’s psyche and intention. I see them as island energies that collide and create a bigger, more dazzling narrative. New work for the XL Catlin Art Prize 2016 will include a sound installation, supported by live interactions.

Jane Hayes Greenwood (City & Guilds of London Art School, MA Fine Art)Jane is the co-founder and Director of Block 336, an artist-run project space and studio provider in Brixton, London. Her installation for the XL Catlin Art Prize 2016 is set to include sculpture, video and painting, continuing her exploration into the allure of objects and historical artefacts. She explains: I think about objects in terms of material things and as psychic entities – how their histories might define our relationship to them and how we measure ourselves against them. I’m interested in why people make things, what we collect and what these impulses reveal.

Hamish Pearch (Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London, BA (Hons) Sculpture) Since graduating from Camberwell, Hamish has taken part in a number of exhibitions across the UK, including Bloomberg New Contemporaries. His sculptures reflect on the emblems and social signifiers used to identify various subcultures. He says:I’m interested in how people manoeuvre themselves into and out of groups. I think about the activities that people pursue in those groups and the tools or cultural artefacts they use to construct their own truths. The forthcoming exhibition provides Hamish with the opportunity to expand on this subject and experiment with scale to produce a bold new body of work.

Neal Rock (Neal Rock (Royal College of Art, London, PhD Painting by Practice)Working with silicone and using screen printed patterns and images sampled from the surrounding locations of his studios in Los Angeles and London, Neal will present three large-scale paintings and a floor sculpture at the XL Catlin Art Prize 2016.Describing his aims for the new work, he states: The sheer size of the work in relation to the human body will be important. I want it to engulf the viewer, offering a visceral experience. Neal is currently undertaking a painting fellowship at the University of Iowa. 2016 will see exhibitions with FOLD in London and Leila Heller Gallery, New York.

P C Robinson  Artlyst 2016


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