Anna McNay

Interview with Karla Black

13 August 2021

Interview with Karla Black

Glasgow-based Karla Black is known for boundary-pushing experiments with materials, both conventional and less so. Though her installations employing toothpaste, cosmetics, and powdered custard might come to mind first, plaster powder—albeit frequently in raw form—remains her primary medium. For Black, the potential within a material is the key point of interest, and she seeks to arrest a work before that potential is lost or becomes fixed.

Above all, Black’s resolutely abstract works emphasize the experience of sculpture—a quality that comes to the fore in her current exhibition at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery. She had previously worked with Fruitmarket for the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 (the same year she was nominated for the Turner Prize), and now, with “sculptures (2001–2021): details for a retrospective,” she has taken over the gallery’s freshly renovated and expanded space, installing new and existing works that employ her signature materials as well as experimental approaches to earth, body butter, and gold leaf. One new work spreads a carpet of colored powder across the floor of the upper gallery, and in another, a Vaseline-covered floor bounces light around the space, reflecting off hanging sheets of painted and powdered cellophane. Both of these installations underscore her powerful affinity for the horizontal plane. Fiona Bradley, the director of the gallery, cites the “defiant force” of Black’s works, which she aptly describes as “demanding and disruptive as well as beautiful and inspiring.”


Read the full interview for Sculpture Magazine here