Saturday, May 13, 2006

Beck's Futures 2006

This year’s Beck’s Futures prize, a whopping great twenty grand, has been awarded to Matt Stokes for his Jeremy Deller-inspired film of Northern Soul dancers at a church disco. The seductive power of 16mm film aside, the close similarities to Deller’s Acid Brass project clearly didn’t worry the judges when it came to picking ‘the most promising artist in the UK’.

Not that there was much to choose from this year. If Becks initially stood for unrecognised artistic talent, now it appears to stand for all that is fashionable, dumbed down and lazy. And I mean that in a negative sense! To pick a few random examples: Bedwyr Williams’ rack of size 13 shoes with stories attached wouldn’t look out of place in any first year BA show. Seb Patane throws together a few references to Aleister Crowley and trades on the currently fashionable occult bandwagon – see also Olivia Plender’s ‘homage’ to Oyvind Fahlstrom. Blood ‘n’ Feathers… well, er, the leaflet says that sentiment has a counterpart in laborious output but I thought that this kind of moral equation went out the window several decades ago. Anyone up for a 1950s gestural expressionist revival? Oh yeah, apparently performance-poet Sue Tompkins is.

So what was good, you ask. Well against my better judgement and certainly unexpectedly I rather fell for the jewel-like little paintings and assemblages of Daniel Sinsel [see above]. They have a kind of seriousness about them that suggests an authentically strange world view, not just a neat one liner dreamt up in the Macbeth one evening. The fact that he is already represented by Sadie Coles gallery just goes to show how voraciously the market is currently hoovering up new talent. But as usual, the quiet work which requires an element of effort from the audience loses out to crowd-pleasing spectacle. Should we ever have expected anything more from what is, after all, a competition sponsored by a brewer?


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