with paintings by Bet Low (1924-2007)

14 November to 14 February 2010. Tues - Sun, 10am to 3.30pm

Karla Black

Karla Black
Installation view: Inverleith House, 2009
From left to right: Protective Edge, 2009; Vanity Matters, 2009 

Karla Black makes abstract sculptures that prioritise material experience over language. They are intentionally not anthropomorphic so that the figure in the work is the person looking at it, and they avoid imagery in order to become part of the world rather than represent it.

She has chosen to show seven paintings by the artist Bet Low as part of this exhibition, and to extract the following quotes from a conversation between journalist John McCarthy and writer Andrew Greig, from the programme ‘Excess Baggage', broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the 7th November, 2009, to accompany it.

AG "What I love about Orkney is that it is extraordinarily elemental. It's really far north and there's virtually no trees in that landscape, so what you're looking at is the basic stuff: a lot of sky, a lot of water and a lot of land... and it's got that quality that allows you to start hearing yourself think. And I was just thinking, on my way here going through the city, [that] one of the great things about places like that is you can hear yourself stopping thinking."

JM "Robert McFarlane, who wrote the foreword to ‘A Wilder Vein', which... you have... contributed to, said, "We are fallen in mostly broken pieces, but the wild can still return us to ourselves." From what you've just said Andrew, it sounds like that would certainly resonate with yourself."

AG "Yes, it's funny how you lose yourself and find yourself at the same time. To me, being in the wild, being in the big, big open space is like being surrounded by deep space and deep time, to a point where you scarcely exist any more and, for some bizarre reason, this is an incredibly good feeling."

JM "Tell me, Andrew, here we are talking about this almost, if you like, emotional/spiritual response that one can have to landscape. Is that very important to you Andrew as a writer?"

AG "I think it's essential to what sanity I have as a human being and, yes, obviously I do find myself, in those big, full emptinesses, starting to dream up ideas, notions, conversations with myself and I write about them because I like my books that are fiction being adventures in landscape."

JM "In the short essay you have in the book... you talk of the importance of regaining a child's ability of looking and looking and looking at detail, on the surface, but also, as you say, that perhaps encourages you to go deeper into the history and into yourself as an adult."

AG "Well, the flip side of deep time, I've found anyway, is deep present, you know, because there really only is deep time and the moment you're in, and that's what I love about the wild: you tend to be confronted with both very physically; I mean there's a physicality of being there. Gradually you move from, I think, the kind of conceptual realm we normally live in - this ghost in the head - into one's physical being, which is the one part of me I really trust, or believe in, and with that physicality comes a presence you simply do not get otherwise, and that's the present moment that I love, but the context for all that presence is this ‘deep space, deep time', and wild places give you that; you can't obscure it."

Andrew Greig ends the conversation by reading from one of his short essays about ‘the fullness of absence' in which he has written:

"One of the best things about this world is so little of it is me."

Bet Low spent a lot of time in Orkney where she had a home. Karla Black has never been there.

Karla Black: Demands Unfocus (detail), 2009

Karla Black
Demands Unfocus (detail), 2009

Karla Black: Acceptance Changes Nothing

Karla Black
Installation view: Inverleith House, 2009
‘Acceptance Changes Nothing' (detail), 2009

Bet Low: installation view

Bet Low
Installation view: Inverleith House, 2009
From left to right: ‘Calm Water (at Mill Bay, Hoy)', 1972; ‘Red Rysa (View from Hoy)', 1970s; ‘Sun Circle, Orkney', 1975.

Bet Low: installation view

Bet Low
Installation view: Inverleith House, 2009
From left to right: ‘Dark Landscape', (undated); ‘In the Hoy Hills', 1977.

Born in 1972 in Alexandria, Scotland, Karla Black lives and works in Glasgow. She gained her BA (Hons) and Masters degrees in Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art, studying from 1995 to 2000 and 2002 to 2004 respectively.

Recent solo exhibitions include , in 2009 Modern Art Oxford; Kunstverein Hamburg; (with Kostis Velonis & Ursula Mayer); Migros Museum, Zurich; Mary Mary, Glasgow; 2008 West London Projects; Catch This: New Works from the Arts Council Collection, Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Recent group exhibitions include, in 2009 Material Intelligence, Kettles Yard, Cambridge; Nothing to say and I am saying it, Kunstverein Freiburg; 2008 Brussels Biennial; Wollust, Columbus Art Foundation, Leipzig; Strange Solution, Art Now, Tate Britain, London; 2007 Poor thing, Kunsthalle Basel.

Born in 1924 in Gourock, Bet Low ARSA, RSW, RGI, attended Glasgow School of Art during the war, after which she worked as a designer for Unity Theatre. In 1963, in response to the lack of opportunity for young artists in Scotland she co-founded (with John Taylor) the influential Charing Cross Gallery in Glasgow (succeeded by the Compass Gallery in 1969).

Solo exhibitions include, in 1995 Land and Sea, Roger Billcliffe Fine Art, Glasgow; 1988 Compass Gallery, Glasgow; 1981 The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh; 1975 Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine; 1968 Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh; 1967 Douglas and Foulis Gallery, Edinburgh; 1962 St Martin's Gallery, London. Group exhibitions include, in 1999 Frames Gallery, Perth; Albermarle Gallery, London; 1998 Scottish Landscape, Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow; The Still Life, Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow; 1988 Art '88, Nurenberg; 1981 Noise and Smoky Breath; Images of Glasgow 1900-83, Third Eye Centre/Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

Inverleith House wishes to thank: Karla Black and the Bet Low Trust; The Scottish Arts Council (New Work Fund), The Henry Moore Foundation, Modern Art Oxford, The Hope Scott Trust; Neil Firth, Andrew Parkinson and The Directors of the Board of the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness; Michael Corsar and Roger Billcliffe (The Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow); Jill Gerber (Cyril Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow); Tessa Lynch, Ronnie Black, Susie Simmons and Hannah Robinson.

Karla Black: Better

Karla Black
Installation view: Inverleith House, 16 November, 2009

'Better' (detail), 2009


A fully illustrated catalogue is available at the gallery; it accompanies exhibitions held in 2009 at the Migros Museum in Zurich, the Kunstverein Hamburg, Modern Art Oxford and the current exhibition. It brings together documentation of these exhibitions, a catalogue raisonné of sculptures created between 2001 and 2009, a new text written by Karla Black and an interview with her by Heike Munder. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is grateful to The Scottish Arts Council for its support of this publication and its continued support of the exhibitions programme at Inverleith House.

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