Karla Black: Turner Prize 2011 Nominee
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 11-02-11
Karla Black, Expressions are hurting move outside (and details), 2008
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Scottish artist Karla Black’s work, exhibited at Saatchi Gallery and nominated for the illustrious Turner Prize this year, is sensitive to a tradition of performance much in the way Marcel Duchamp’s was.  Her audience is welcomed to experience her usually sprawling organic structures as physical commodities, material and commercial monuments.  We can’t help but note their use of space, and how much they take up.

Her materials, or perhaps “ingredients” would be more apt, are often instrumental in affecting the final product of her work.  They are often eccentric for the very fact that they are ordinary supplies commonly found in any apartment or home bathroom.  For example, Doesn’t Care in Words (2011) is comprised from cellophane, paint, Sellotape, sugar paper, chalk, powder paint, plaster powder, wood, polystyrene, bath bombs, Vaseline, moisturizing cream, spray deodorant, and brown paper.  But don’t be deceived.  Despite these largely feminine products, Black does not appreciate being called a feminine artists: “Why do people call it feminine? Because it is light, fragile, pale? Because it is weak, impermanent? When you start going to work on it you realise how ridiculous the description is. How can a work of art be feminine?" (see the article in the Guardian on her exhibition at the Venice Biennale for more.)

And nor is her work meant to provoke shock in the viewer or academy as Duchamp’s Fountain was meant to.  She is happy to rank herself within the artistic tradition of say Joseph Bueys or Eva Hesse.  And despite her pieces’ seemingly careless arrangements--well it turns out they are meticulously wrought, and even allusive to painting.  The pieces are provocative in that they beg us to look to the context of the physical, the material, realms rather than than that of linguistic or symbolic jest.  In that, she certainly is able to distinguish herself from previous recipients of the Turner Prize like Damien Hirst and Richard Wright.  But, however she may choose to set herself apart, she certainly has our vote this year. 

The Turner Prize is awarded once a year to a British artist under the age of fifty who’s work has been distinguished in an exhibition the previous year.  The other nominees this year are Martin Boyce, Hilary Lloyd, and George Shaw. 

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