Mark Wallinger

English painter, sculptor and video artist. He studied in London at the Chelsea School of Art (1978–81) and Goldsmiths’ College (1983–5). From the mid-1980s his work has addressed the traditions and values of British society, its class system and organized religion. The range of approaches he has adopted reflects his wish to have a broad appeal and highlights his roots in a tradition of British left-wing thought. In the early 1990s he began using a personal enthusiasm for horse racing as a theme through which to explore issues of ownership and pedigree. Race Class Sex (oil on canvas, four parts, each 2.3×3 m, London, Saatchi Gal.), consists of four highly finished renderings of thoroughbred race-horses. As well as evoking the equestrian portraiture of George Stubbs, these works also direct attention toward issues of identity and the inheritance of social structures. This thematic culminated in A Real Work of Art (1994), a conceptual work involving the syndicate-backed purchase of a filly and its redesignation as a ready-made turned to socio-critical ends. In the late 1990s Wallinger shifted his focus to a questioning of institutionalized spirituality and religion. In Angel (1997; London, Saatchi Gal.), a projected video installation, lasting 7’30”, he appears as a blind man at the bottom of an escalator, reciting the opening verses of St. John’s Gospel with the tape played backwards to give the diction a stilted quality. The skepticism and irreverence of his work, typical of his humorous observational approach, were downplayed in a later public sculpture commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square: Ecce Homo (marbleized resin, barbed wire, gold leaf, 1999). Close to the edge of the massive stone plinth, Wallinger placed a life-sized cast of a young man representing Christ being presented by Pontius Pilate to the Judeans. Contrasting with the monumentality of the surrounding public statuary and architecture, this work suggested contemporary relevance for themes of suffering and redemption, and a plea for racial and religious tolerance. Wallinger has described his approach in terms of the address of the chorus to the audience in classical Greek theatre, suggesting both an authentic absorption and personal investment in the work as well as a real critical distance. By this he aims to show how personal experience can be located within a wider political framework. Wallinger was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1995, and in 1998 he was awarded the Henry Moore Fellowship at the British School in Rome.

Ecco Homo 

State Britain

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