Karla Black, Never Known To Figure, 2023. Photo: David Rowan.

Karla Black

Exhibition opening: Thursday 11 May, 6-8pm.

Free, all welcome.

Please note: This event will be British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted.

A major exhibition of previously unseen sculptures by critically acclaimed Scottish artist, Karla Black. This will be the artist’s largest UK solo exhibition and is a rare opportunity to see her work in depth.

Karla Black uses a distinctive palette of pastel and metallic colours and selects materials for their physical properties, from cotton wool, Vaseline, bath bombs and make-up to polythene, cellophane, powder paint and paper. She makes no distinction between commercial or fine art shops as repositories for material she wants to work with.

Black worked independently in the gallery spaces over a two-week period, transforming raw material and pre-prepared forms from her studio into works that hang, hover, rise, assemble, scatter, curve and spread. The sculptures were planned with the Gallery’s specific spaces in mind but their exact form and appearance remained uncertain to the end. As the artist puts it, what remains from her time in Walsall are “big strong sculptures that require lots of endurance and large masses of material that challenge the space itself or take it on, in a physical way.” This freedom–to be unleashed in the galleries with material, to scrabble about on the floor with it like a curious child–is vital to the artist’s process. For Black, it is also a way of maintaining a meaningful connection to the world.

For the first time, the artist presents a large group of paint-filled jewellery boxes in grid formation, bringing to mind the desirable and carefully organised displays of sweet shops and make-up counters. Gallery-filling sculptures and robe-like objects absorb into them Black’s longstanding interest in Greek philosophy and ancient history, in particular the closed-off environment and politics of Plato’s Academy, the first institution of higher learning in history to the virtual exclusion of women. Experienced together, these works inform, affect, and contrast each other, involving the viewer in a bodily way.

All works courtesy of Karla Black, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, Germany; Modern Art, London, UK; and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan, Italy.

Vulnerable works
Please do not touch the work and please supervise any young children in your care. Touch Boxes, containing examples of raw materials used by the artist, are available. Please ask a member of staff.