Irish-born artist Duncan Campbell wins Turner Prize 2014 with essay film

Artist Duncan Campbell, who lives in Scotland, said winning was a "validation" of his work and added that the prize money would make a great difference to his life. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Artist Duncan Campbell, who lives in Scotland, said winning was a "validation" of his work and added that the prize money would make a great difference to his life. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Irish-born artist Duncan Campbell won Britain's prestigious Turner Prize on Monday for an "essay film" which draws on an array of sources, including African art, the Irish Republican Army, dance and Marxism.

The annual award for contemporary art was presented to Campbell by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of 12 Years A Slave, in a televised ceremony at Tate Britain, which oversees the often controversial prize.

The Turner winner gets £25,000 (S$51,370) with £5,000 for each of the three runners-up - James Richards of Wales, Tris Vonna-Michell of England and Ciara Phillips, a Canadian living in Scotland.

Campbell, who also lives in Scotland, said winning was a "validation" of his work and added that the prize money would make a great difference to his life.

"The economics of what I do are not as great as say, a painter, so it does make a difference in terms of me being able to do what I do," he said.

He is known for works tackling power structures and other complex issues, such as the relationship between Britain and Ireland.

His winning entry, It For Others, uses a series of old and new footage, including a 1971 image of Joe McCann, sometimes called "the Che Guevara of the IRA", to show how images can be turned into commodities of mass culture.

The picture of McCann, who was shot dead by British soldiers less than a year after the photo was taken, became part of pop culture to the point where the image was emblazoned on T-shirts and Christmas stockings.

"He always takes serious questions... but then what he does is treat them in quite an unusual way and this film is even more unusual than some of his earlier works," said Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, who chaired this year's jury. "It's a work that really does repay sustained attention."

Past winners of the Turner Prize, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, include Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and last year's laureate Laure Prouvost.

The award, named after the 19th-century English landscape and seascape painter J.M.W. Turner, has often courted controversy for shortlisting unconventional pieces of art and is regularly lampooned in Britain's tabloid press.

The works of Campbell and the three other finalists will be exhibited at Tate Britain until Jan 4.