The plasticity of a surreal dream

Past shows: Karla Black, Stuart Shave/Modern Art
17 Nov – 16 Dec 2017

We attended this exhibition in November last year and really liked discovering Karla Black’s new body of work. With this exhibition she attempted to emphasise the importance of mark-making in her practice, which combined with colour and light connects her sculptural practice to painting.

Moreover, she concentrated specifically on one of the many sculptural problems that preoccupies her: how to preserve the precious, formal aesthetic decisions she makes, within the precariousness of the informal materials she favours. Many of the works in the exhibition were conceived and realised within the gallery space. As she’s asserted in the past, her sculpture is absolutely non-representational.

“There is no image, no metaphor,” Karla Black said.

In the first room, there were free standing sculptures made of Vaseline mixed with paint, then sealed between glass screens. In addition, we found hanging sculptures in the same materials and in clay, wool and spray paint across the whole show. In the second room, there were floor artworks of a pink fluff material and thin sculptures made of Johnson’s baby oil bottles, crystal glasses and wax.

Karla Black lives and works in Glasgow. She was born in Alexandria, United Kingdom in 1972, and completed an MA in Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, in 2004. In 2011, Black’s work represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale, and was the same year nominated for the Turner Prize. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at multiple galleries in the UK and abroad.

Black’s works for this exhibition were fragile and evocative. The plasticity of the materials she used for this exhibition, as well as the pastel and shinny colours she employed on most of these artworks remain in my mind as part of a surreal dream.

 

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The poetry in traditional crafts

Past shows: Martin Puryear at Parasol unit, London
18 Sept – 6 Dec 2017

It’s not often that I discover artists like Martin Puyear. I was truly interested on the body of work he presented at the Parasol Unit gallery in Shoreditch, London, end of last year, and really inspired by it. His abstract works are finely hand-made from wood and bronze and the use of craft methods and natural materials on the sculptures he creates shows a great respect to skilled craftsmanship. He proves that abstraction isn’t separate from traditional techniques and in fact it’s more relevant than ever. To me, this exhibition brought back the spirit of the Arts & Crafts Movement promoted by William Morris and Ruskin in the XIX century, with the joy of craftsmanship that it inspired and the natural beauty of materials.

Furthermore, with his works Puryear also explores social history and makes a very subtle political statement. In addition to the sculptures, the printmaking works presented on this gallery on the first floor offered a different perspective of the wood and bronze sculptures.

This exhibition was curated by Ziba Ardalan and was the artist’s first solo show in London. It presented over 30 works of sculpture and works in paper and spans 40 years of the artist’s practice. In the ground floor gallery there were large-scale works, such as the “Big Phrygian”, 2010–2014. This five-foot tall cedarwood sculpture, painted bright red, resembles the distinctive shape of a Phrygian cap, which is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward. People of ancient Eastern Europe and Anatolia wore such caps, which in the modern world have come to signify the pursuit of liberty.  This contrasted with the iron sculpture “Shackled”, 2014, which recalls the shackles worn by slaves when they were taken to America.

The African-American began exploring traditional craft methods in his youth, studied a BA in the States and went to spend two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leona, where he learned local woodworking techniques. Following this time in Africa, he spend two more years (1966-68) studying at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm before returning to the US to attend Yale University in 1971, where he received an MFA in Sculpture. His work is widely exhibited and collected both in the United States and internationally.

“I value the referential quality of art, the fact that a work can allude to things or states of being without in any way representing them.” Martin Puryear.

For The art berries, performing with these works was like merging with nature. Almost like when an architect thinks about how to integrate his design within the surrounding landscape, but with a more humble approach of course! We hope you enjoy the photos! 

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