“Power! Visibility!”: Veronica Ryan, artist behind Hackney Windrush sculptures, accepts Turner Prize

The artist is awarded the prize for the “personal and poetic way she extends the language of sculpture”.

8 December 2022

“Power! Visibility! We are visible people”: these are the words with which Veronica Ryan accepted the Turner Prize 2022, one of the best-known visual art awards in the world. The sculptor, whose recent practice combines found, forgotten objects and crafted materials – exploring themes such as displacement, history and loss – was nominated both for her solo exhibition at Spike Island, Along a Spectrum, and her Windrush Artwork Commission in Hackney. The latter is the UK’s first public artwork to celebrate the Windrush generation.

Installed in 2021, Ryan’s Windrush Artwork Commission featured bronze and marble sculptures of three Caribbean fruits: Custard Apple, Breadfruit and Soursop. In conversation with the Tate, the artist told the story behind the celebratory work: “My parents came to England in the 50s so I have early memories of going to Ridley Road Market mostly because my mother always met her friends. It’s interesting that I’ve chosen those particular fruit and veg because they’re what my mum ate when she was pregnant with me. I like the idea that I might have internalised these particular soursop, custard apple and breadfruit.”


Veronica Ryan (Copyright © Holly Falconer)

The Turner Prize jury praised Ryan for “the noticeable shift in her use of space, colour and scale both in gallery and civic spaces”, a Tate press release states. The artist accepted the prize at St George’s Hall, Liverpool on 7 December, stating: “Thank you so much, I didn’t prepare anything because it’s so scary and I’ve been around a long time […] I have a few people in my career who have looked out for me when I wasn’t visible and I was making work from rubbish, collecting rubbish over a number of years. But actually some of the rubbish are some of the most important works I think.”

The shortlisted artists for the Turner Prize 2022 include Heather Phillipson, Ingrid Pollard, Veronica Ryan and Sin Wai Kin. “All have pushed the boundaries of material exploration through unravelling the complexities of body, nature and identity,” the Tate release continues. An exhibition of all four artists will run at Tate Liverpool until 19 March 2023.

Ryan’s Spike Island exhibition, Along a Spectrum, examined themes including history, displacement and socio-political concerns through works in bronze, clay, “sewn and tea-stained fabrics; and bright neon crocheted fishing line pouches filled with a variety of seeds, fruit stones and skins”, the Spike Island site explains.

On the Windrush Artwork Commission, Ryan adds in her conversation with Tate: “Every time I’m in Hackney I’m always fascinated because children just sit on them and they climb on them and I really like that there’s a serious conversation around the work, but then there’s this possibility for play and that children are learning about structures and sculpture and about foods from the place that their parents come from, so they connect them on lots of different levels.”

GalleryTurner Prize 2022: Veronica Ryan Installation View at Tate Liverpool 2022 (Photo copyright © Tate Photography, Matt Greenwood)

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Veronica Ryan (Copyright © Holly Falconer)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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