Vintage-inspired taxidermy wins ad industry's fine art prize

Last week I was one of the judges at the 12th annual Square Art prize, which celebrates the artistic endevours of the memberers of the advertising industry – including creative and commercial directors, illustrators and animators.

Based around a theme of 'Craftwerk' – meaning a mixture of craft and digital – over 60 pieces were exhibited at the elegant Georgian offices of post-production house Golden Square in Soho, London. From these we judges picked First, Second and Third prize winners – while a People's Choice Award was picked by attendees from the ad industry to a private view on Thursday night.

The top prize went to Kat Hahn's The 2nd Mouse gets the… (top), a witty taxidermy diorama featuring two mice. Kat intended the piece to be a negative comment on the ad industry, though it's underlying metaphor – that those who try something first fail and those who wait and copy/learn (depending on your point of view) – is of wider vision than just that one field of work.

"I'm really chuffed that the judges understood The 2nd mouse," says Kat (below), "especially considering that it's a bit of a critical statement about the advertising world. Oops, maybe they just liked the dead mice.”

While it's construction is entirely craft-based and not digital, the judges felt that its quirky spectacle would push it into the digital 'space' as snaps and video of it would easily find their way out onto Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Pinterest, Facebook et al.

Second prize went to This is Colin (below), a really funny short animated film by Passion Pictures's Perrie Murphy about a salaryman who loses his patience with the slights of everyday life and… well, watch the film below to find out. It's digitally animated, based on hand-crafted paper components of hands, heads, bodies, legs and preserves,

The third of the judges' favourites was Stone Telephone (above), which was carved by illustrator Cristina Guitian from a single piece of limestone. Initially surprisingly heavy – as you base your assumption of its weight on its form not its material – it feels incredibly comfortable in the hand. If only we could replace all of the phones in the Digital Arts office with real phones carved like this…

Sitting next to the telephone on the night was Matt Keen and Alex Hulse's Primitive (below), a stone-age axe created in plaster with a 3D printer.

A personal favourite that didn't make it into the overall awards was Stare by Simon Riley (above), an intense mix of anger and vulnerability that it's great to see displayed as a fine art piece rather than providing a cover artwork for an album by someone like the Arctic Monkeys or The Pains of Being Pure of Heart.

A few artists used the event to push beyond the boundaries of what's acceptable even in modern advertising. Kat Hahn's (yes, her again) sweary bunting – aka Cunting (below top) – was genuinely amusing, while Stuart Pearson Wright's It's Not Unusual to be Loved By Anyone (below bottom) was really rather disturbing. His portrait of Tom Jones is finished with diamonds for pupils, real gold on the watch – and hair fashioned from the artist's pubic hair. And it could be yours for a mere £15,000.

The judging panel, including Daniel Bergmann, MD of Stink (far left); Nils Leonard, CCO of Grey (second from left); Karen Gaskill, curator of events at the Craft Council (centre); and Digital Arts' editor Neil Bennett (back).
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