Tag Archives: Glasgow

Side note – Karla Black

Now would be as good a time as any to break away from recording my internship, as in my last post I introduced the work of Karla Black at GI 2012. Karla  represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale and was a finalist for the Turner Prize in 2011, the year that Martin Boyce won. Martin was actually at an opening at the gallery while I was a volunteer tour guide, unfortunately I don’t have pictures but maybe someone does!

Karla’s sculptural installations are known for their light pastel colour schemes and ephemeral quality, and for the artists’ use of everyday household materials. This is a common sub-genre of conceptual and neo-conceptual art in itself, and a feature of a lot of Glasgow artists (hence the title of the latest sculpture show at GoMA, ‘Everyday‘. But more of that later.) One particular talking point about Karla in particular, is her adoption of what could be termed ‘feminine care’ products such as cosmetics, in her work. ‘Don’t Adapt, Detach’ is decorated with glitter eyeliner in place of paint, for example, and those looking closely at ‘Empty Now’ would have seen bronzing pearls casually strewn on the sawdust.

Karla Black GI 2012

The ramifications of such use of materials deserves in-depth discussion, and is a topic I will write about in a later post. The artists’ incorporation of stereotypical ‘feminine’ products raises important questions of meaning, intent, and interpretation. The habit of society to read gender into art, as in so many things, will form part of my Masters research, and the meaning we read into materials is something I am very interested in. Karla Black’s own reaction to such categorization of her work was one of the motivating factors for me in my research, and has posed many as yet unanswered questions.

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Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012

The beginning of my Internship coincided with the start of Glasgow’s contemporary art festival, so I spent my first day visiting nearby exhibitions around Trongate and the Merchant City. There was a staff briefing at the gallery, whose involvement in the festival consisted of an enormous sculptural installation by Karla Black. The work was made with seventeen tonnes of sawdust, and was a feat of logistical acrobatics to install. Who knew sawdust was so heavy? In a listed building, with the Glasgow underground system already running close to the foundations, and a gallery space which had public rooms below it, there was a real risk that the sculpture would cause the floor to collapse. The original design of the work was even heavier…

Karla Black GI 2012

Karla Black detail

 

The sawdust piece is titled ‘Empty Now‘, and the overhanging cellophane ‘Will Attach‘.

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Formal Training and Creativity. Versus?

Does theory and training hamper creativity?

At a talk this week by designer Wayne Hemingway OBE, he made the case for thinking outside the box with regards to training. As a fashion designer Hemingway was self-taught, which seemed to remove the barriers of self-preservation and open him up to be truly brave and experimental. While it is true that in 2013, a lack of formal education in your chosen field is an almost guaranteed barrier to entry, there is no reason, according to Hemingway, why an architect cannot design clothes, or a graphic designer cannot design social housing. The training is a basis and a foothold, but should serve to give you the confidence to think much more broadly. But isn’t it true that the more you know the more you realise you don’t know?

As a classically trained musician, I have long bemoaned my complete lack of songwriting ability, blaming it on the fact that I have been trained in the ‘proper’ way to write music. What I mean by this is that I just can’t put pen to paper and run with it, but I am crippled by rules of key signatures and what not. It would have to make sense to me, rather than  honest and unrestrained expression. While I love listening to contemporary and cutting edge artists, seeing their work in sheet music form hurts my eyes and my brain.

While not belittling the importance of sound theoretical training, I wonder if the extra rules and constrictions that come with the acquiring of academic knowledge can be restrictive? Or perhaps that is the point: that true greatness may come once you have mastered the theory and are then able to go beyond it with innovation?

The old adage rings true for me with music: I know enough to know that what I write wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the work of the artists I listen to, and so I don’t bother. I think the key attribute in creativity may be neither training or lack of it, but bravery, tenacity, and resilience. 

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The Critic Sees

I had an enjoyable lunch hour this week trekking round Kendall Koppe and Transmission galleries in Glasgow. The show at Transmission includes performances, which I missed, so I will write about that once I have caught the performances.

At Kendall’s, meanwhile, there is a two-man show of works by Craig Mullholland and Zachary Drucker. Drucker’s contribution is a film and accompanying light box image of drag artiste Flawless Sabrina, while Mullholland is showing three linen prints on the walls, as well as simulacral box of cigarettes and a ghostly jacket. I say ghostly because it’s puffed out as if being worn by an invisible man.

I’ve no idea if the jacket was ‘readymade’ or not, but it brings me nicely to the Jasper Johns reference in my title. ‘The Critic Sees’ centres on a pair of eyes looking through spectacles, simultaneously mocking the critic by subverting his role from that of onlooker to that of object on display. Crucially, however, it also reminds the viewer of their own relationship to the object: they are external and bring their own ideas and preconceptions to the table.

Mullholland’s Dadaist jacket stands in
for us as we look around the gallery, and temporarily forces us to step outside our physical selves and draw attention to our actions as a viewer. Similarly, his linen prints, with slogans like ‘refresh me’, play on our preconceptions to the nature and traditional method involved in their production. As to the intent behind all this, it’s maybe too simplistic but it could easily refer to the subject matter of Drucker’s film which is after all an exploration of identity and representation in microcosm.

As for the gallery, their accompanying text mentions ‘normative efficient embodiment’. I can’t say if that particular nugget corresponds to my interpretation or not, but maybe it will work for you!

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So, the New Years Resolution then…

On my days, I have just checked my little archive and seen exactly how long it is since I last posted on here. I know I’ve been busy with Postgrad applications, but still! I could do a quick whizz round the latter part of 2012 and try to cover the various exhibitions and arty goings-on, but really I think time would be better served just keeping on top of the present! So the next few weeks are going to include Nick Evans at Tramway, Easy Does It at David Dale, and a little jaunt to Edinburgh, to name but a few. To round off on a good vibe, here’s a snap from the Niki de Saint Phalle opening at GoMA in November. The theme was headgear, which coming straight from work meant a fedora for me, not madly exciting! Image

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