17 March 2022

The University of East London (UEL) community has paid tribute to Turner Prize winning sculptor, Grenville Davey, who worked at the University part-time for 20 years and inspired many students and colleagues as he led our MA Fine Art courses for 10 years.

Born in Launceston, Cornwall, UK, Grenville won the 1992 Turner Prize for his work titled HAL, which consisted of two abstract steel objects.

In his part-time role at UEL, he was the programme leader for our MA Fine Art and inspired many students and colleagues.

He was also a visiting professor of the University of the Arts London, affiliated with the physics department of Queen Mary University of London and the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

In 2007, Grenville took part in 'Turner Prize: A Retrospective, 1984-2006' at Tate Britain, alongside his contemporaries, and exhibited widely in group and solo shows at Mori Art Museum, Tate Modern, Primo Piano and many other institutions across the world.

He worked on many commissions during his career including the Olympic Park and the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Arts Council England and Linear Park, Cambridge, and more. His timeless sculptures are held in numerous private collections around the world.

Colleagues and students have shared their wonderful memories of him, praising his 'philosophical thinking' and 'generous spirit.'

Alexis Harding, programme leader in MA Fine Art, said, "A lot can be written about Grenville, his background, the exploitative side of the art world for good and bad; but what is often overlooked is how subtle and persistent, acute and playful his work is. He mined minimalism and included the vibrations of ordinary daily life into his work every time."

Karen Raney, programme leader for the professional doctorate in Fine Art, said, "I worked with Grenville for ten years and shared an office with him. He was a unique person and a perceptive artist and teacher. His quiet presence and wry sense of humour will be greatly missed."

Dr Debra Benita Shaw, reader in cultural theory, said, "Grenville and I shared an interest in challenging the divide between the arts and sciences. I will very much miss our conversations and his inspiring intellectual perspective."

Karen Boast, college manager at UEL, said, "I worked with Grenville over the last few years and I can only say he was a gentleman. Always courteous, polite and kind. Added to that he had a very good sense of humour and always quick to smile.

"There will never be another Grenville, he was unique and his life outside of UEL was particularly interesting to hear about."

MA Visual and Performing Arts alumna, Sinthia Arefin, said, "Grenville Davey was an amazing person. He was a great mentor, who always motivated me and guided me to become the best version of myself.

"His mentorship made me a better artist. All the lessons he taught about visual art will be with me always.

"The last message I received from him was about my performance art, he mentioned he always remembered us like we all were at UEL and my singing. It meant a lot to me, it would be a lifelong inspiration for me."