Karla Black : an example of pretty art?

karla-black-2011
(name not known), 2011

During my art A Level, about half way through each project when our ideas were getting stale, our teacher would take us to the library where we would rifle through various art magazines and books. The aim of this exercise was to seek inspiration, be it an isolated piece of artwork or an artist, and often what we found completely altered the direction of our work. I came across the work of Karla Black in one of these inspiration sessions. I’m not sure how much her work influenced mine; I don’t recall creating anything in her style, but her work has affected my views on art nevertheless.

karla-black-platonic-solid-2009-detail
Platonic Solid , 2009, detail

 

karla-black-modern-art-oxford-2009
Platonic Solid, 2009
karla-black-at-fault-2011
At Fault (2011) – this image reminds me of the Grand Budapest Hotel!

I can’t decide whether it’s the sugary pastel colours in Black’s works which draw me in, or the scale of the sculptures; but I think the surrealism created by the combination of both of these aspects is what really captivates me. Black creates a lot of her sculptures using beauty products such as bath bombs and make up; Platonic Solid (2009) could almost be the result of a giant powder compact being tipped upside down. To an extent the scale of Black’s sculptures seem to contradict their form; if Platonic Solid is the contents of a make-up compact, then At Fault (2011) is a collection of crumpled up papers, tossed aside like every day rubbish.  Things which are overlooked daily, but when they are expanded and transformed with pretty colours only then do they attract our attention.

karla-black-at-fault-detail-2011
At Fault, detail

There’s something else I want to explore in relation to Black’s work, which is the idea of pretty art. You’ve probably noticed that so far I haven’t discussed any art work which isn’t explicitly visually pleasing. As a rule I do prefer artwork which looks good; looking at artwork is the first way I experience it, so if the colours, textures and forms look appealing I will automatically like it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as this is the basis for a lot of art, but the problem is whether I (and I know that I’m not alone) overlook – to put it simplistically – ugly pieces of art. There is a tendency to judge artworks on their visual qualities, but understanding the concept is just as important. Works which aren’t so pleasant to look at often need deciphering to fully appreciate them, so I always try to find out the concept behind them. I think that there needs to be a balance between the visual examination of an artwork and the intellectual examination of a concept. Whether an artwork is ugly or pretty and the concept is meaningful or basic, it’s important that both of these aspects are considered.

All photos: http://www.modernart.net/view.html?id=1,3,508&view=1

(images below are from the same installation as the first image)

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