The Power Plant

Karla Black


Courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, photo by Ronnie Black

Karla Black is a Scottish artist who creates abstract, immersive sculptures that explore physical experience as a way of communicating and understanding the world around us. She was born 1972 in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire and studied Sculpture at The Glasgow School of Art from 1995 to 1999. Black gained an MPhil in Art in Organisational Contexts from 1999–2000 and an MFA in 2002–4.

She is interested in ideas of play and early childhood learning as well as the primitive, creative moment when art comes into being and draws on a range of artistic traditions from expressionist painting to land art, performance and formalism. Everyday matter such as soap, cotton wool and toothpaste are explored alongside traditional art materials including plaster, pigment and paint, expanding the limits of what sculpture can be. Her work operates in an area of uncertainty, existing in a place she refers to as, ‘almost painting, almost installation, almost performance art.’ (quoted in Kraczon, p.12).

Usually made in response to the space where they will be shown, her works have ranged from delicate cellophane, paper and polythene hanging pieces suspended with ribbon or tape to large-scale floor-based environments made from plaster, chalk powder and soil. Her sculptures are often full of contradictions; they command an entire gallery space yet hover on the brink of collapse, and combine a fascination in raw, physical materials with an interest in psychoanalysis and language.

Solo exhibitions have been staged at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2013), the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (2012), and the Migros Museum, Zurich (2009), among others. Her works are held within many prestigious collections including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, The Hammer Museum, LA, and Tate. In 2011 she represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale, and she was nominated for the Turner Prize in the same year. In 2014 she was included in ‘GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland’. Black currently lives and works in Glasgow.