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 organised 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.
In the late 1990s Wallinger shifted his focus to a questioning of institutionalised spirituality and religion. 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 (marbleised 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. 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. Wallinger was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1995.
Mark Wallinger (exh. cat., essay J. Thompson, Birmingham, Ikon Gal., 1995)
Turner Prize 1995 (exh. cat. V. Button, London, Tate, 1995)
10 December 2000
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