Tate Modern Artists: Mark Wallinger
The consistently original painter, sculptor and video artist Mark Wallinger has created some of the most subtly intelligent and irreverent work from the UK in the last twenty-five years. Studying in London at the Chelsea School of Art (1978 - 81) and Goldsmiths College (1983 - 5), his early work questioned the traditions and values of British society and its class system, best represented by his employment of images of racehorses. Painted in a photo-realist style, these works explored issues of ownership, inheritance and pedigree, with suggestive titles such as Race, Class, Sex (1993). His 1995 Turner Prize nomination was largely thanks to his piece A Real Work Of Art, an actual racehorse which Wallinger had bought and named 'A Real Work Of Art' with a view to entering it in races, causing his artistic concept to be piped into bookmakers up and down the country. In the late 1990s Wallinger shifted his focus to a questioning of institutionalised spirituality and religion.
Typical of his humourous observational approach, his piece Angel (1997) is a video played in reverse showing the artist as his blind alterego 'Blind Faith' walking backwards at the bottom of an escalator at Angel Underground Station while reciting the opening lines of the Gospel of John in the King James Bible. His innate scepticism was downplayed in a later popular public sculpture commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, Ecce Homo (1999), a serene marble life-sized cast of a young man representing Christ. After a retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 2000, representing Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2001, and then winning the Turner Prize in 2007 with his socially engaged installation State Britain, Wallinger's star has continued to ascend, culminating in Ebbsfleet Landmark Project - a fifty metre sculpture of a white horse standing in the English countryside. 2013 has also seen him create a multipart work entitled Labyrinth to mark the 150th anniversary of London Underground. As with all the titles in our perennial Modern Artists series, this book contains one hundred full-colour illustrations and a new interview with the artist.