Karla Black, The Academy, 2023. cartridge paper, watercolour ink, plaster powder, powder paint, ribbon. Photo: Ilona Zielinska (Elona Photographer)
Contemporary Exhibitions

Karla Black

The New Art Gallery Walsall is delighted to present a major exhibition of previously unseen sculptures by critically acclaimed Scottish artist, Karla Black. It is the artist’s largest UK solo exhibition and 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.

Window Box

Never Known To Figure, 2023

15 April – 23 October 2023

acrylic paint, cellophane, cotton wool, jewellery boxes, plaster powder, polythene, powder paint, thread, UV lipstick, Vaseline

Never Known To Figure is a new sculpture by Scottish sculptor, Karla Black, made onsite over four days specially for the Gallery’s street-facing Window Box.

Beginning with material in its loose, raw or folded state, Black worked rapidly to suspend, crease, smear and scatter material, producing a painterly sculpture that is at once suggestive of a sweet shop, make-up counter, and an exuberant Baroque living room.

Like the Baroque era, the artist embraces painting, and its relationship to sculpture; something that is evident in her arrangement of material.

The work is about the importance, for Black, of abstract art, particularly materially abstract sculpture, as both a “form of resistance and a freedom – particularly a feminist one – in maintaining an uninterrupted human connection to the physical world.”

About Karla Black

Black studied at Glasgow School of Art, graduating with a BA in 1999 and an MA in 2004. She has presented recent solo exhibitions at Modern Art, London (2022); Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2021); Des Moines Art Centre, Des Moines, Iowa, USA (2020); Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt (2019); The Power Plant, Toronto (2018); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2017) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2015). In 2011, Karla Black was nominated for the Turner Prize. In the same year, she represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Karla Black is represented by Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, Germany; Modern Art, London, UK; and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan, Italy.


Preview: Thursday 11 May 2023, 6-8pm. All welcome.

Curator tour
Saturday 10 June, 2pm. Free.
Join Curator of the exhibition Zoë Lippett for a walk around tour of the exhibition.

BSL led tour
Thursday 29 June, 2pm. Free.
Join Deaf artist Olivier Jamin for a BSL led tour of the exhibition.

Artist talk
Thursday 19 October, 5.30-8pm. £7.50 (£5 concs).
Karla Black and Fiona Bradley, Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh will be in
conversation for a seated talk.

Events can also be booked by calling the Gallery on 01922 654400.