Image of Veronica Ryan OBE. Credit: Lisa Whiting Photography
Veronica Ryan OBE. Credit: Lisa Whiting Photography

Honorary Fellow Veronica Ryan wins the Turner Prize

Sculptor Veronica Ryan OBE, creator of the UK's first permanent public artwork to honour the Windrush generation, has won this year's £25,000 Turner Prize.

Veronica, 66, was Artist in Residence at Jesus College from 1987-88, at what was a formative stage in her career.

At the end of that year, the College exhibited her work in the first Sculpture in the Close exhibition. She was elected as an Honorary Fellow in 2021.

She is the oldest winner in the prestigious art award's 38-year history, and the first individual artist to be awarded the prize since 2018.

She shouted "Power! Visibility!" when her success was announced at the ceremony.

Veronica Ryan was born in 1956 in Plymouth, Montserrat. She studied at St Albans College of Art and Design, Bath Academy of Art, the Slade School of Fine Art, and SOAS. Her sculpture practice is often compared to that of Eva Hesse and Barbara Hepworth, and she works in an extremely wide range of media — including bronze casting, textiles and ceramic — thematically grounded in equally wide-ranging archival and historical reflection.

She has held numerous fellowships, grants, and residencies from prominent institutions including the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Camden Arts Centre, and Yaddo (one of the USA’s most celebrated artists’ colonies).

In 2020, Veronica was one of two artists to receive the Hackney Windrush Commission to create a new major work of public art. She placed giant sculptures of Caribbean fruits - the custard apple, breadfruit, and soursop - on a street in Hackney, east London.

Her winning works included these sculptures, as well as her works for an exhibition in Bristol last year that featured cocoa pods, avocado stones, and orange peel. Crocheted bags made from fishing line were also part of the prize, as well as tea-stained medical pillows that were made during the pandemic as a tribute and reflection on acts of care and nurturing.

Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson, who co-chaired this year's jury, reportedly told the BBC that Veronica's work had "a quiet but very compelling presence".

"There's a kind of subtle autobiographical component to the work, and the jury feel that she's extending the language of modern contemporary sculpture in new and subtle ways," he said. Veronica's was "perhaps the most abstract and elusive work" of this year's four nominees, "but it's quite insistent. And it's ultimately really poetic as a sculptural practice - but you're aware that this poetry is a result of working with the most humble forms, things that normally are thrown away or lost.

"There's a sense of beachcombing to how the materials are found, kept and brought back to life. And I think that is something that people can relate to."

Veronica has exhibited at galleries in the UK and abroad, including Tate Modern, the ICA, the Hayward Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, Kettle’s Yard, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and her work is in important collections including those of the Arts Council, Tate, and the Henry Moore, as well as the College’s own collection.

She was appointed OBE in the 2021 Birthday Honours.