Helen Marten
Helen Marten as Oxford student

From the archives: video of Turner Prize winner as an Oxford student

Matt Pickles

Artist Helen Marten, who studied at the Ruskin School of Art and Exeter College from 2005 to 2008, has won this year's Turner Prize.

In her last year at the Ruskin School, in 2008, she was interviewed in a video discussing her studies. That video can be seen here.

Helen spoke about the benefits of studying art in a close-knit group within a wider university. 'It usually works out that you have a few people [within the Ruskin] who become your sounding barriers or the people you talk to most about your work and their work,' she said.

'So you generally find that your critical space is within the school because they are the people who know most of the time exactly what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re talking about, things you’re looking at.

'But then because you have friends outside the school, there are people you will just chat to and there are lots of tangents which is good.'

Helen said that she benefited from working alongside art students at different stages of their degree.

'I think the vertical relationships are really nice because there’s a real framework,' she said. 'The guy in the year above you knows how to jigsaw something better than you so if you need to learn that, you’ll learn it, and it’s a building up of bits and pieces that eventually give you something a bit more full.

'There is no hierarchy or distinction between a first year and a third year, there’s a real network of friendships and of people’s knowledge that is good.'

She talked about what art students did outside of Oxford's eight-week terms. ‘Quite a few of us from our year all travelled around Germany and Venice this summer seeing various big shows,' she said.

'Maybe something that is symptomatic of really short terms is that there is quite a nice bleed over term times.

'Even though term is finished it’s not like the Ruskin is finished because a lot of people are doing stuff together anyway, like seeing shows in London or going away together.'

The interviewer in the video was Richard Wentworth, who was head of the Ruskin School at the time. His closing comments on Helen and her fellow students now seem prophetic.

'All three of you have worked really hard, you have been incredibly productive and a lot of artists would be put to shame by what you've generated in that time,' he said.

'I've never seen a year be critical like this.'