The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Frederik De Wilde:  NanoBlck-Sqr #1

Carroll / Fletcher, 56-57 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8EQ

14 November 2014 – 21 February 2015 (exhibition extended)

Review by Laura Davidson

Pleasingly, there are divergent narratives for thought which can be fabricated here:  total colour as a whole beyond systems, the material properties of total colour as facade for complex systems, and the (re-staging of historical) art work as script. The latter narrative feels out of context here, but there is gratification in the first and second narratives - in considering a material within an art object presented as so total and yet simultaneously so empty. NanoBlck-Sqr #1 could be considered as an interface for complex systems. There are latent explanations of chemical constructs and processes within this work; it does not perform only as a vacuum for visible light. There are scaffolds supporting this vacuum. These material constructs are a conscious decision by the artist, even if they are completely negated, aesthetically, by the nature of the material.

Let us return to the interface, and our contemporary experience of the concept, usually via the software interface on a computer or smartphone. On-screen, we are accustomed to viewing and interacting with 'user-friendly' interfaces that allow us to access vast complexes of code that we may or may not know how to decipher. Interfaces are facades for systems that prop up the interactions and actions of our daily life, and they do not ask us to stare back in introspection, or to meditate upon them. It is curious, therefore, to encounter a 'black square' made of a complex material that gives the viewer this kind of space for contemplative thought.  

Kazimir Malevich's Black Square (1915) cast a long dominant pall over the summer exhibition schedule in London. For those who slipped through the expectant crowds and spent a few contemplative seconds in front of the infamous painting, there was an odd indigestible moment suppressing an underwhelming gasp. The concept prevailed, but the material bearing the idea did not. The not-quite centennial square had cracked, nakedly revealing to viewers its distracting material properties. Judging by some of the commentary on Abstract Critical (see Saturation Point contributor Charley Peters' observation), it was hard to extract necessary material inspiration from what felt like a confused and lonely archival object.

Frederik De Wilde, NanoBlck-Sqr #1, 2014, courtesy the artist and Carroll / Fletcher

Frederik De Wilde, NASABlck-Crcl #1, 2014, courtesy the artist and Carroll / Fletcher

Less than a month after the Malevich show at Tate Modern, the 'Black Square' reappeared in London, both at the Whitechapel and at Carroll / Fletcher.  The appearance of Frederik De Wilde's NanoBlck-Sqr #1 (2014) at Carroll / Fletcher appeared to suggest that 'Black Square' is a running script that can be executed beyond Malevich's original. Descending into the ground floor of the Fitzrovia gallery there is (unsurprisingly) a black square mounted on the far wall, this time unaccompanied by crowds or cracks. In front of NanoBlck-Sqr #1 is a plinth containing an enclosed silver box with a palm-sized black disk of carbon nanotubes, grown in a NASA laboratory. The encased material carries with it the branding of the American space agency, which gives it an aura of galactic mystique. De Wilde's 'Black Square' is made from this nano material, giving the square of aluminium upon which it is applied a completely immersive sensation of black. The carbon nanotubes absorb all visible light, fixing black, here, as total colour.

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.