As Pavel Büchler wins the Northern Art Prize, he finds time to tell the world why Manchester is to blame
Proving that art awards don’t only go to the young and thrusting, Pavel Büchler, a 58 year-old Manchester-based artist, won the Northern Art Prize last week. Although praised by judges for influencing ‘a huge amount of people throughout his career’, it was arguably the quiet sensibility of his work that secured him the £16,500 prize. ‘I’m an old man and London is far too busy for me; I love Manchester,’ he said shortly after his win. ‘Of all the regional cities I know, it has the least “regional” attitude. Artists there are not chippy about the rest of the world.’
This year’s shortlist had a particularly strong Mancunian slant. Alongside Büchler, Rachel Goodyear, Ian Rawlinson and Nick Crowe were all up for the award, with the shortlist itself featuring only one artist who didn’t have a connection to Manchester. And although the Northern Art Prize took a kicking from The Guardian’s Alfred Hickling in the run-up to the announcement (who took umbrage at a poorly edited exhibition catalogue), the prize itself is beginning to make the art world at large sit up and take notice. Christoph Grunenberg, Director of Tate Liverpool, was reported to have said, ‘we are fighting against the London centre of gravity. And so we should be: there is incredible work going on here.’
Büchler’s entry for the prize included Eclipse, a nine-projector artwork that casts circles of light on a wall (replicating the solar system and a series of eclipses within it), the circles alternating between light and dark according to the movement of people nearby. The deceptive simplicity of Eclipse belies a work that uses the mundane (nine 1950s Leitz projectors) to create something that, if it captures the imagination of the viewer, is utterly beguiling. Which for us sums up much of the new art being created in and around Manchester: not showy, but quiet, unsettling and occasionally sublime.
Image: The Four Horsemen: Pestilence (2009), Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson; Eclipse (2009), Pavel Büchler, both courtesy The Northern Art Prize 2009-2010.