In Profile: Laure Prouvost

 Laure Prouvost's Wantee

Toby Hood takes a look at this year’s Turner Prize winner, multimedia artist Laure Prouvost…

Since graduating from Central St. Martins in 2002, French-born artist Laure Prouvost has burst onto the UK scene with her enthralling and often seductive installations.

Awarded the coveted Turner Prize this week for her work Wantee (2013), Prouvost was inspired by fellow European immigrant and painter Kurt Schwitters; a German World War Two refugee who lived in Cumbria during the ’40s, working with ‘all conceivable materials‘ to build his Merzbau structures. Prouvost’s work emerged from her commission with Adam Chodzko, Tate and Grizedale Arts, Schwitters in Britain, to restore Schwitters‘ influence to the Lake District.

English culture is very much at the heart of the work: “I love the irony, the humour, the black humour. I feel very attached to it.” Wantee — so-named after Schwitter’s tea-loving assistant (‘want tea?’) — centres around her fictional grandfather (also a frequent presence in Provoust’s work) who is a hapless artist, never quite achieving the success of his contemporary Schwitters, his work being more suited to household conveniences like a doorstop or tea-tray.

Laure Prouvost

The video was declared “unexpectedly moving” by Turner judges in its blending of the humane and the humorous. Her imaginary relative also appears in the installation The Artist (2010) and performance poem More From My Lost Grandfather (2011), Prouvost never quite making clear where the real grandfather ends and the fake one begins.

After its run in culture capital Derry/Londonderry, the exhibition will return to England in January and shown at Coniston’s Ruskin Museum, in respect of its northern roots.

Prouvost’s work is commonly described as ‘immersive’; installations are interactive in their simulation of everyday environments with a conceptual twist. “This idea of being inside an artwork, you’re trapped as a viewer, I like that, I play with that a lot in my artwork.”

Multimedia is also used provocatively in Prouvost’s practice. Video Swallow, made during  her Max Mara Art Prize 2011 residency, seduces the viewer into the evocative Italian experience; whilst newspapers are a common feature of hers as she attacks the pages with ink in a violently symbolic meeting of ink and paper.

Outside of the gallery, Prouvost has written and produced a full-length feature film, The Wanderer (2012), based on Rory Macbeth’s translation of Kafka’s book of the same name. The film holds testament to Prouvost’s focus on the consequences of mis-translation, whilst incorporating Kafka’s free transitions between reality and the imaginary.

For all her continental influences it is Britain that Prouvost is proud to call home. “Thank you for adopting me”, she cries in her Turner Prize acceptance speech; certainly her repeated success is reciprocation of that relationship. There is plenty more to come from Britain’s adopted artist, and as she invests her £25,000 prize money into more projects, we are looking forward to following her promising talent and progress.

Toby Hood

The Turner Prize exhibition continues at Ebrington in Derry/Londonderry until 5 January 2014

See more of Prouvost’s work here

Posted on 06/12/2013 by thedoublenegative