Splashes of controversy are part of the Turner Prize and at times resemble an artist’s palette.

Named after the eccentric British 19th-century painter J M W Turner, this year’s award continued that tradition.

The four shortlisted contenders, Oscar Murillo, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Tai Shani, all walked away with the 2019 award for the first time in the competition’s 35-year history.

Fittingly, the ceremony was held at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in the England seaside town of Margate.

British Vogue magazine editor Edward Enninful, who announced the prize, called the decision “incredible.”

Ahead of the big night, the four artists had sent a letter to the judges explaining their reasons for forming a collective.

Spot the person in an artwork entitled ‘Collective Conscience’ by Turner Prize winner Oscar Murillo at the Turner Contemporary gallery. Photo: AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas

“At this time of political crisis in Britain and much of the world, when there is already so much that divides and isolates people and communities, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the Prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity, and solidarity – in art as in society,” they wrote.

More than 60,000 people have already seen the works by the quarter since they went on display in the United Kingdom more than three months ago.

“We each work with specific issues, but it doesn’t mean that we see those things in separation from each other,” Abu Hamdan, who is based in Beirut, said. “The condition of competition would actually turn the messages away from each other.”

Turner Contemporary director Victoria Pomery has described their work as “fantastic exhibitions.”

Murillo had been the favorite to win the Prize. His work draws on his experiences of growing up in Colombia, before moving to London when he was aged 11. He combines his roots in Latin America with Western art, to create sculptures, models and vividly painted abstract canvasses for multimedia installations.

After the announcement, he said:

“We have very strong individual voices, but somehow the prize needed to be concluded in this way.”

A video installation artwork entitled ‘Walled Unwalled’ by Turner Prize winner Lawrence Abu Hamdan at the Turner Contemporary gallery. Photo: AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas

Abu Hamdan has always billed himself a “private ear,” rather than a “private eye” as he investigates and complies sounds and how they contribute to identity.

Part of his submission for the coveted award involved recreating the acoustic memories of former inmates of a Syrian prison, where they were held shackled and blindfolded.

Cammock, who is based in London, is a multimedia artist working in film, photography and text, who uses social history to examine power structures.

Her film The Long Note examines the different roles and involvement of women in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in 1968.

She said the idea of forming a collective “literally came out of the first meeting with each other.”

London-based Shani described her submission as an “expanded psychodelic” adaptation of Christine de Pizan’s 15th work The Book of the City of Ladies.

Visitors watch a video installation, which forms part of an artwork entitled ‘The Long Note’ by Turner Prize winner Helen Cammock, at the Turner Contemporary gallery in the UK. Photo: AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas

Her work, which was nearly five years in the making, features 12 imagined characters on film and live performance to explore feminism and power structures.

Still, controversy has often swirled around the Turner Prize, which is awarded to a young British-based artist for an outstanding exhibition in the past year.

In 2016, the shortlisted works included a giant gold sculpture of a pair of buttocks and chastity belts.

Other famous installations over the years include Tracey Emin’s unmade bed, works made from elephant dung, clippings of human hair and a pile of bricks.

Last year’s winner was video artist Charlotte Prodger, who shot a film on her iPhone about coming out as gay in rural Scotland.

– additional reporting AFP