Scottish artist Karla Black makes sculptures that begin with a desire to do something. To experiment with certain materials, certain colours. In turn, the sculptures she makes do something: they hang, heap, spread, reach, spill, stand, hover. The materials Karla uses include cosmetics, over-the-counter medicines, cleaning products and packaging as well as the paint, paper and plaster more usually found in fine art. She uses them because she likes them, and wants to see what they can do. She keeps her materials as raw as possible, so that the energy they embody is in the present or the future rather than the past.
Karla has been thinking with us about what she can do in the new Fruitmarket for almost as long as we have been thinking about making changes to the building. Art and the space (Iiteral and metaphorical) it makes for an audience are at the heart of the Fruitmarket’s vision and purpose. To achieve this, we need, trust and want artists to take risks, to experiment, to frame questions rather than provide answers, to bring new perspectives to bear. Karla has imagined together with us an exhibition that combines a selection of sculptures made since 2001 with new works made in and for the Fruitmarket in the weeks before the exhibition’s opening.
In the ground floor Gallery, standing, hanging and low-lying volumes and planes are constructed from cardboard, sugar paper, polystyrene, polythene, and cellophane, and worked on with Karla’s signature powders, pastes and gels. In the light and airy upper Gallery, a spreading work in plaster powder and powder paint. In the new Warehouse, an experiment in materials including earth, thread and copper and gold leaf.
Karla Black’s sculptures have a defiant force. They are demanding and disruptive as well as beautiful and inspiring. Resolutely abstract, they reject figuration – as Karla says, the only people in her sculptures are her, while she is making them, and us, while we are looking at them. As art, they make space for us by prioritising our experience of them in the here and now.