A SCOTTISH artist with a penchant for rolling up sheets of A4 fax paper into balls, or filling rooms with balloons, is in the running for this year's Turner prize.

The off-the-wall art of Martin Creed, who was raised in Milton of Campsie and educated at Lenzie Academy, near Glasgow, has caught the eye of the London art set, and he is one of the four people short-listed for the prize. The winner will be announced in December.

The Turner, often criticised for promoting irrational art, is still a huge international attraction and previous winners have achieved worldwide status. It is awarded to a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the previous 12 months.

Creed, 32, is described as a conceptual artist whose often controversial pieces include Work No 79 - some Blu-Tac kneaded, rolled into a ball, and depressed against a wall, and Work No 88 - a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball.

Last year, at the British Art Show at Inverleith House, Creed's Half the Air in A Given Space proved popular - although being in a room filled to the ceiling with balloons disorientated as many people as it amused.

Martin McGeown, his dealer at the Cabinet Gallery in London, said Creed was travelling in Italy. He added: ''A lot of his pieces are big installations. You bring the interpretation to the instruction he provides.

''We have a new show opening on June 14 when Martin's installation will be a large piece of furniture that is obstructing a door. I think it's a limited edition of 10.''

Continuing the Scottish connection for the top art prize, Mike Nelson, another of the four short-listed artists, has exhibited at the Tramway in Glasgow and the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh.

Nelson, 34, is an installationist artist who constructs large-scale pieces, often using a jumble of discarded everyday materials. At the Tramway, he constructed the scene of an empty, desolate night club in daytime.

The other Turner nominees announced last night were Isaac Julien, 40, a film-maker who has an international reputation but who has not been widely recognised in the UK before now, and Richard Billingham, a 30-year-old photographer from the West Midlands, the bulk of whose work consists of snapshots of his family in their cramped tower block flat.

Nicholas Serota, chairman of the judging panel and Tate Gallery director, said the jury had considered more than 180 artists. He said the final short-list reflected the particular enthusiasms of the judges.

''This year we have selected four artists, none of them very young, and not many of them very well-known,'' he said.

In previous years, the award has been criticised for its lack of popular appeal, but Mr Serota yesterday defended the motive behind the award.

He said: ''The Turner Prize is intended to promote public discussion of new developments in contemporary art.

''It is not designed to show the best artists or the greatest artists, but the art that people working together find extremely interesting at that time.''

An exhibition of the work of the four short-listed artists will be on display at Tate Britain in London from November.