Group Exhibition – Judge’s Commendation Award 2010
Group Exhibition 2011
Karen Black’s compositions seem to emerge from charged and miasmic atmospheres. Murky backgrounds are crafted as though they cunningly conceal the sources for Black’s startling structures that jut into picture planes, part organic and part geometric. Odd bodies of pigment are smeared or daubed into humanoid forms and wraith-like chimeras. Humming live colours, like embers, are suspended in the gloom.
Proceeding to astonishingly different ends conveys that a transition has taken place in Black’s ouevre. From early works that privileged the human body as subject, to series of portraits that drew on the canon of Expressionism, evoking Eduard Munch, George Rouault or Joy Hester, Black’s current body of work demonstrates an approach to paint as a sensuous material, open to an intuitive touch, the mysterious and nebulous. There is more of Yves Tanguy and Hany Armanious in the artwork’s seductive illogicality.
As Black writes:
Considering the circle as a void within our relationship to the infinite, this painting questions perception as well as exploring notions of time, space and reality. (…) By using the formal characteristics of paint, colour and chance, I attempt to tap into overarching themes of mutability and interconnectivity.
The circle in Proceeding to astonishingly different ends could usefully be perceived as an ensō, or Zen circle, but equally a sun or mere two-dimensional shape. Black’s figures are not bounded by a consistency of depiction, for example, compare the angelic figure far left, with the primeval crouching man or potato-print like dog. The reminder that paint is able to brilliantly house any notion, vague or precise, is a particularly liberating strength of Black’s work.