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Introducing Turner Prize 2023 Shortlisted Artist, Rory Pilgrim

With less than a week to go before this year’s Turner Prize exhibition launches at Towner Eastbourne, we continue our introduction of this year’s selected artists. Join us as we explore the multidisciplinary work of Rory Pilgrim, including his nominated commission, ‘RAFTS’.

Turner Prize 2023 shortlisted artist Rory Pilgrim. Photographed by Maxima Smith

Born in 1988 in Bristol, Rory Pilgrim graduated with a BA First Class Honours in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art & Design in 2008, before attending De Atelier, Amsterdam 2008-2010.

A multidisciplinary artist, Pilgrim works in a wide range of media including songwriting, composing music, film, music video, text, drawing and live performances. 

Describing music as his first language, Pilgrim learnt classical music from an early age, and was a member of a British Cathedral Choir (where he would perform in seven church services a week), before playing in pop/folk bands as a teenager. Pilgrim’s lived experience of performing to an audience has informed his artistic practice since attending art school, where he realised his need to think about for whom and how he communicates to a listener.

Rory Pilgrim, ‘RAFTS’, Production Still, 2021. Photo: Matthew Ritson

Centred on emancipatory concerns, Pilgrim’s work aims to challenge the nature of how we come together, speak, listen and strive for social change through sharing and voicing personal experience. Strongly influenced by the origins of activist, feminist and socially engaged art, Pilgrim works with others through different methods of dialogue, collaboration and workshops. In an age of increasing technological interaction, Rory’s work creates connections between activism, spirituality, music and how we form community locally and globally from both beyond and behind our screens.

Rory Pilgrim, ‘Putting the World to Bed’, 2021. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Rory Pilgrim

Pilgrim was selected by the jury for his commission, RAFTS at Serpentine and Barking Town Hall, and a live performance of the work at Cadogan Hall, London. The RAFTS film is a seven-song oratorio narrated by eight residents of Barking and Dagenham from Green Shoes Arts, reflecting on what the symbol of a raft means to them through song, music and poetry. They are joined by singers Declan Rowe John, Robyn Haddon, Kayden Fearon and members of Barking and Dagenham Youth Dance.

RAFTS was made during the Covid-19 pandemic, in this work Pilgrim positions the raft as a symbol of support keeping us afloat in challenging and precarious circumstances. Timed screenings of RAFTS and RAFTS: Live will be at presented at Towner, alongside paintings, drawings and sculptures that expand this theme.

The exhibition of Turner Prize’s four shortlisted artists will be presented at Towner from 28 September 2023 – 14 April 2024 with the announcement of the winner on 5 December 2023. The Turner Prize winner will be awarded £25,000 with £10,000 awarded to the other shortlisted artists. We hope to see you there.

King & McGaw are proud sponsors of the Turner Prize 2023 at Towner Eastbourne.

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