Mike Nelson to represent Britain at Venice Biennale 2011

Known for his atmospheric, immersive installations, Mike Nelson's intervention in the British pavilion in Venice promises to be intriguing.

An old Red Crescent medical bus, seemingly recently discarded by hippies who've turned it into an opium den – the claustrophobic space seems thick with their presence. A derelict building in Margate turned into a cannabis factory – again filled with the presence of a cast of characters that's busily supplied by the viewer's imagination. A plain white door in a chic contemporary art fair that leads you through the looking glass into a dingy, grubby, unsavoury photographer's studio.

These are among the worlds created by Mike Nelson, who has been named the artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale 2011. I'm already intrigued by the idea of the sort of thing he'll create out of the staid and pretty British pavilion in the Giardini in Venice. His immersive installations – which might remind one of the work of such theatremakers as Punchdrunk – are always intriguing, always inclined to make you not only feel an atmosphere (often a rather sinister one) but also work away at the intellect. They are both allusive and elusive; and absolutely meticulous in their detailing. At their best they can work like little narrative tales, with the story all hinted at. At their worst, they are atmospheric set dressing – but always enjoyable. As Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery has said:

“He often makes connections in his art that, whether cultural or social or even political, are not that obvious. They require a certain amount of work on the viewer's part. There's a great freedom in the way his imagination roams over so many cultural territories and teases certain associations from the audience. He's doing what all great artists do, asking people to look differently - but doing it in a very intimate, and often demanding, way.” I'm also personally pleased for Nelson. He's one of the nicest, most straightforward fellows you could hope to meet. He was nominated for the Turner prize in 2007 [partly thanks to the installation for Frieze art fair, which I mentioned above] and lost out – rightly, as it happens, to Mark Wallinger – but Venice will give him the opportunity for huge exposure among the best of the best of international contemporary art. Good luck to him.