Karla Black: Her bright materials

There's nothing depressing or grim about Karla Black's colourful work, but it's far from feminine, the Turner Prize nominee tells Hannah Duguid

In Tate Britain, visitor assistants have been told to be on the look out for toddlers and small children approaching the gallery where artist Karla Black has just installed her sculpture, At Fault. Pink, blue, yellow and green powder is spread over the floor, extending from a central piece that looks like a huge boulder made of coloured rock. The colours and textures make me want to touch it, roll on it, eat it. I know that this is not allowed but children do not, and they love Karla Black's work.

"I've had a big bum print on a work at Inverleith House in Edinburgh because a little kid just ran in and sat down. They really like it but it doesn't really work for them because they want to touch it", says Black.

"I feel really sorry for children. My work is really difficult for them because they want to dive right in and they're restrained and then they get upset. I've had a fair bit of damage done to my work by children. There's no way that they can resist it".

And who can blame them, when bundles of soft blue and sugar pink like candyfloss hang from the ceiling? There are ribbons and shiny yellow cellophane, and pink and white plaster that looks like slices of cake. Looking at Black's work makes me remember childhood birthdays, or a perfectly wrapped gift, and sweets. I experience a childlike sense of pleasure and joy, which is so complete that it feels as though my brain has switched off.

"That's what sculpture can do, it can be a pure engulfment and absorption in the material world, when you're not even aware of yourself, when you have no self consciousness, and you're not being watched and you're just purely absorbed in the material world. That is the best possible kind of escape – when you are fully connected to yourself.

"I think about art as a place to behave, as an escape, not just for me but for the people looking at it," says Black.

Her work is not without a serious and cerebral side but there is nothing grim or depressing about it. It is impressive enough for her to have been nominated for the Turner Prize this year. She did not win but that does not bother her.

"I don't think the Turner Prize has changed things. I suppose more people are aware of my work from it, but they're not people I know. The amount of people who went through the gallery was extraordinary, and it was a good exhibition opportunity, which is all I am ever bothered about," she says.

Black is Scottish. She lives and works in Glasgow, and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Her work may appear messy: piles of powder, scrunched-up paper, and abstract mounds of colour but there is perfectionism within what appears to be chaos, which makes it compelling. The colours are perfect soft shades. It has taken her weeks, months, and years to get them right.

"When I started using colour I did think that if you're going to use colour you have to be really deliberate about it. It does things to people and what it will do is different, depending on what sort of colour you use. I can't use colour indiscriminately. It's too important for that.

"There's a pink that I cannot stand, that I absolutely hate. It's a sort of cerise pink, that's disgusting. I can only go in a tiny little bit of the spectrum, especially in pink. There's a really specific, really pale baby pink, which is what I like," she says.

It does annoy her, however, when her colour palette is labelled as feminine. "It's a bit daft. I don't get annoyed so much as disappointed because they can't go any further than that in their brain. People have all these connotations about pink being for a girl, or colours being girls' colours, which they're obviously not. Loads of male artists make pink work, like Franz West."

Black's work does not always use pink, or blue, or any colour at all. A new work, going on show in Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art on Friday will be made from 17 tonnes of sawdust. It will be around 24 metres long, and 10 metres wide, and the colours are natural: wood shavings from pine, yew, maple and teak. Above it will hang a giant cellophane sculpture, marked with metallic brown, gold and copper, which correspond to the ornate ceiling and pillars of the room in the museum.

"I do get worried that it won't be any good. I don't really know what it will look like, that's the pressure. I try to do something good but doing it in public means there is much more at stake. It's more of a gamble, a much bigger risk. I don't know whether I've made a good sculpture until it's finished. If you make it in the studio then you know it's good before it goes out," she says.

When Black first began showing her work, she held exhibitions but then had to destroy the work afterwards. Such large and fragile objects were difficult to store, and she had no choice but to throw them away. Now she dismantles work but then re-creates it elsewhere. At Fault was first showed at last year's Venice Biennale, before being re-created in Tate Britain.

"Sometimes it's impossible to make something exactly the same. It's nearly the same. You can see how different and how the same the work in the Tate is from when it was in Venice. It has a lot more powder, which is to do with how it works in the room. I change it to make it where it is now," she says.

She sells work to collectors and museums but she is ever the perfectionist, and the work arrives with detailed instructions of how it is to be assembled and displayed – not pushed against the wall, no plinths, no vitrines. Collectors must send her an annual photograph so that she is able to see what state it is in. She does not let go. Neither is she willing to surrender her work to time, if she can help it.

"Aesthetics are so important to me and the work is not about decay. It is about preserving this really perfect moment," she says.

She is working with conservators who will help her to discover how her work will look in five or a hundred years' time, and how the colours will change.

"I would like my work to remain perfect. The thing that haunts me is the state of Eva Hesse's work. They're absolutely disgusting now, and she never made it like that. She used latex, which was so white and so thin, and now it's brown. No one knows what she would think of it now. Some of it is OK but some of it is in a terrible state," says Black.

It really bothers her that her beautiful work might become old and ugly one day.

Karla Black, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (0141 287 3050) 20 April to 24 June; 'At Fault' is at Tate Britain, London SW1 (20 7887 8888) to 2 January

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit