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University of the Arts London presents Counter Acts

Visual for Counter Acts exhibition
Visual for Counter Acts exhibition

Written by
Dan Austin
Published date
25 October 2019
  • Featuring artists with a connection to both UAL and the Turner Prize alongside recent graduates
  • Over half of all Turner Prize winners studied or worked at UAL
  • Participating artists include Jeremy Deller, Bill Woodrow, Mona Hatoum, Yinka Shonibare and Gillian Wearing
  • Recent UAL graduates include Alix Marie, Madelynn Mae Green and Jimmy Merris

This winter, University of the Arts London (UAL) presents Counter Acts, an exhibitionthat explores the relationship between the Turner Prize, the UK’s foremost contemporary art prize, and artists who studied and taught at UAL. Held at the Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, the exhibition brings together artists who form part of UAL’s artistic communities (alumni, teachers and recent graduates) to mark the 35th anniversary of the Turner Prize.

Curated by Osei Bonsu, UAL alumnus and Curator of International Art at Tate Modern, Counter Acts will span 35 years of artistic practice highlighting UAL’s continued contribution to British art. Over half of all Turner Prize winners have studied or worked at one of the University’s six Colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Arts. Counter Acts demonstrates the unique role UAL holds as an incubator for artistic talent and the integral part these artists have played in shaping the art world.

Taking the year of 1984 as a point of departure, Counter Acts will uncover the relationship between artists, art schools and contemporary society, highlighting artworks that have redefined contemporary art by disrupting historical, political and cultural narratives. Drawing on a diverse range of perspectives and approaches, the exhibition will reflect on art practices that have defined the university’s past, as well as those which will shape its future.

Exhibition curator and UAL alumni Osei Bonsu comments:

As freedom of speech becomes an issue of polarised debate, visual art remains a powerful instrument of communication. Artists in Britain have always articulated progressive viewpoints, and their ability to transform our perception of social realities is more relevant than ever.

Participating artists include Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, a student at  London College of Printing (now London College of Communication), who was awarded the Prize in 2004. Turner Prize nominees include British sculptor Bill Woodrow RA (1986 nominee) and installation artist Yinka Shonibare (2004 nominee) who both studied at Central Saint Martins. Exploring how UAL has influenced the practice of international artists, is Palestinian artist and Central Saint Martins alumni Mona Hatoum (1995 nominee) and British-Laotian artist Vong Phaophanit (1993 nominee) who served as visiting lecturer at both Chelsea College of Arts and Wimbledon College of Arts.

The exhibition coincides with the Turner Prize 2019 presentation at Turner Contemporary in Margate. It reinforces the Prize’s position as an enduring topic of national conversation informing how contemporary art is seen and understood within the public imagination.

Counter Acts is also a fringe event during Margate Now, an ambitious and dynamic festival of art, events and performances held in Margate and beyond to celebrate the Prize coming to Turner Contemporary.

Counter Acts runs from 29 November 2019 - 22 January 2020. Visit the Lethaby Gallery website for more information and a full list of participating artists.