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Britain’s Turner Prize in sights of first Canadian-born finalist

Ciara Phillips New Things To Discuss (2013) Commissioned by The Showroom, London

Daniel Brooke

It's pretty much a sure thing that this year's winner of Britain's most famous annual art award, the Turner Prize, is going to be a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. After all, three of the four finalists, announced this month, went there. And four of the past nine winners of the £25,000-prize ($46,000), honouring a British or U.K.-based artist under 50, have been Glasgow grads.

Canadians might take a keener than usual interest in this year's joust as one of the Glasgow nominees is an Ottawa native. Ciara Phillips, in fact, is, at 37, the first-ever Canadian-born finalist in the prize's 30-year history. A screen-print specialist, she travelled to Scotland in 2002 for her MFA after earning a BFA from Queen's University in 2000, then working for the Canadian Consulate and Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York and attending the International Center of Photography school.

Phillips says she's had a long-standing interest in social activism, feminism and collaborative work, all of which can find expression in screenprinting – what she calls "a process for generating ideas and images." Her nomination is for a print-installation project shown last year at London's not-for-profit Showroom gallery.

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Will she win come December 1? Adrian Searle, acerbic art critic for The Guardian has indicated her chances are as good as any of the others. "None of the short-listed artists is exactly familiar to a wider audience," he notes. But at least Phillips' work offers some "visual pleasure" in a field that seems "all a bit dour."

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