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Karla Black, ‘Defense is an End’, 2006

Taking full advantage of the graceful, well-lit spaces now occupied by Mary Mary gallery in Dixon Street, Glasgow, Karla Black draws out the anaemic beauty of various cosmetic substances and sculptural raw materials. Her witty impressions of accidental form are combined with subtle accents of an underlying careful design.

Entering the gallery, the viewer is struck by the looming presence of a suspended paper sculpture, ‘Opportunities for Girls’, its ragged wings bound with criss-crossed ribbon to the ceiling. ‘Now is the time to normalise’ shows Black’s taste for inspired combinations of unorthodox media—in this instance, cardboard, paint, concealer-stick and hemp hand-cream.

An aseptic glow in the doorway to the second gallery space forms the pre-emptory glimpse of ‘Early Equals Deep’, 2006, a large floor-based installation measuring 500 × 650 cm, and described in the gallery plan as being made of ‘diprobase cream, polythene bag, toilet paper, kitchen paper, towel, sugar paper, chalk, plaster, petroleum jelly, glass, face powder, concealer stick, and nail varnish’.

Squared-off so sharply that the effect is that of a powdery celestial carpet, the work leaves a precariously narrow walk-way for viewers who shuffle nervously past in single-file, wary that one false move will make them embarrassed participants in its friable design. As if to accentuate this tension the overwhelmingly hygienic vision includes pronounced moments of sullied purity, wasteful–looking objects half buried in the angelic turf—such as patches of toilet paper and polythene bags. These harsher additions are mainly confined to the corners, leaving a vast snowy expanse in the centre, smoothed and patted to the consistency of a velvet or fur, breaking up here and there into dispersed and ruffled granules with occasional congealed patches of spilled liquid creating subtle variations in texture and tone.

Laurence Figgis is a Glasgow-based artist