The Contemporary Art Society has acquired a work by Scottish artist Karla Black for Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. Black’s sculptures integrate traditional art-making materials with substances of the everyday, such as cosmetics, cellophane and sugar. The use of a pastel palette and cosmetics invites interpretations of her work as feminine, but she denies the gendering of colour and materials. Black’s practice ranges from expansive, immersive installations to smaller, freestanding sculptures. They avoid symbolism, instead adopting an abstract approach to material, space and light.
Results Past, 2017, acquired by CAS, is a suspended work. It consists of a glass plane painted with Vaseline, lipstick, paint, highlighter, framed with plaster and hung by metal chains. The suspension of the glass creates a precarious situation highlighting the fragility of the work and evoking a sense of tension in the space. While not strictly site-specific, the setting of the work is drawn into the form through the clear glass and suspension in space.
The potential of the glass to break and the cosmetics to fade foregrounds destruction and decay. Yet there is an emphasis on preservation in the traces of lipstick and fingerprints, documenting otherwise temporary traces. The work marks the detritus of human presence in the world, evoking memories from these ubiquitous materials. She is interested in the what makes up the material world, rejecting differentiation between art and non-art materials.
Black approaches mark-making as an approach that is physical and experiential rather than linguistic, drawing on her interest in psychoanalysis and childhood development. She draws from abstract expressionism, land art, performance and formalism. The influence of this blend of traditions is present in the work but she challenges the idea of painting and sculpture as distinct from each other. She proposes a vision of painting that is both painterly and sculptural.
This acquisition adds to the growing presence of contemporary female artists in Aberdeen Art Gallery’s collection. Existing works in the gallery’s collection explore the idea of thresholds, crossing boundaries and the psychological power of space; Black’s work is the next step in this legacy of collecting.
Karla Black (b.1972, Scotland) has had solo shows at The Power Plant, Toronto (2018), Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne (2019). She has upcoming shows at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2020) and Des Moines Art Centre, Iowa, USA (2020).