At the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Palestinians are peering through a towering border gate. What they’re looking at isn’t initially clear in Rosalind Nashashibi’s short film Electrical Gaza, but then, the 43-year-old British artist doesn’t deal in grand, obvious statements.
Instead, she depicts everyday life, children playing in the street, horses swimming in the sea and even some animated scenes. It’s not quite the image of the Gaza Strip we see in newspapers – and yet the knowledge of underlying tragedy is always there. Directly after she filmed it in 2014, Israel began its military occupation.
And yesterday such enchantment finally filtered through to the mainstream when Nashashibi – who has a Palestinian father and Irish mother – was nominated for Tate Britain’s hugely prestigious Turner Prize, won in the past by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor.
Tate Britain said that “the jury was impressed by the depth and maturity of Nashashibi’s work, which often examines sites of human occupation and the coded relationships that occur within those spaces – whether a family home or garden, a ship or the Gaza Strip.
And though The Turner Prize is awarded to a British artist for an “outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work”, this year’s shortlist of four is the most multicultural and international in some time – perhaps ever.
The other painter on the shortlist is Hurvin Anderson, whose upbringing in Birmingham’s African-Caribbean community and regular visits to Trinidad is shot through his work.
Rounding off the shortlist is a German-born artist whose broad portfolio includes woodcuts, printmaking, film and sculpture. Andrea Buttner’s two exhibitions in Switzerland and Los Angeles exploring religion, morality and ethics were both hugely well-received, making her one of the favourites to win the prize when it is announced in December. In the meantime works by the four artists will go on display at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull – current UK City of Culture – from September.