Gavin Turk British, b. 1967


"The artist has the power to signoff the work by deconstructing the work itself: I've finished this work now and I'll sign it and relegate the painting to simply something that services my signature. The painting becomes the colorful backdrop of the signature." - Gavin Turk

British artist Gavin Turk (b 1967) has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture including the painted bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon and the use of rubbish in art. His oeuvre deals with issues of authorship, authenticity and identity, engaging with modernist and avant-garde debate surrounding the 'myth' of the artist and the 'authorship' of a work of art.


In 1991, Turk's postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art was refused based upon his graduate exhibition. Titled 'Cave', it consisted of a simple white studio space, containing a blue heritage plaque (typically found to mark  buildings of historic interest throughout London) commemorating his own presence; "Gavin Turk, worked here, 1989-1991.


The show bestowed Turk with instant notoriety, including with YBA collector Charles Saatchi, who later exhibited Turk's work in the (now infamous) exhibition Sensation. Turk was a significant force in the Young British Artist (YBA) movement.


Turk is arguably the leading exponent of the painted bronze, and has cast a variety of 'found objects'; including spent matches, worn paving slabs and discarded vehicle exhaust pipes. Some of Turk's most revered works in this regard involve his series of bronze sculptures of plastic rubbish bags. Other works include "Nomad" (2002), a bronze cast of a sleeping bag, and "Box" (2002), which resembles a cardboard box.


Other works from Turk's process include iconic images of figures taken from popular culture and art historical reference points. A series of detailed life-sized waxworks, incorporating the artist's own appearance, features the artist assuming various poses as different characters, including Sid Vicious, Jean-Paul Marat, and Che Guevara. Turk's most famous work in this series, Pop (1993), is a waxwork of Turk as Sid Vicious. The work appropriates the stance of Andy Warhol's screen print of Elvis Presley. In the work, the right hand is pointing a gun, a motif which also recurs in other works in the series, such as Bum (1998).


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