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Nature’s Ideological Landscape

2 to 21 June 2014


William Black was born in Lambeth, London in 1968

He studied at Gloucester, Huddersfield and Central St Martins

William currently lives and works in Norwich




A conversation between William Black and Kate Murphy.


Kate Murphy: “...eventual triumph of the meek over the merciless.” is something you once rolled out to me, talking about a painting you’d done. Maybe it describes something of all the paintings you do. For me at least, no matter the subject, they hold and host a desperate pace, a savage aesthetic - showing me the world I live in and (the effects of) the way I live in it. But I feel ok, not afraid, as if they assure out of their own dark and dirty lines that this gradual triumph will come.


In Nature’s Ideological Landscape we see your most recent work. The landscapes appear flexible, bent and mis-shapen but never quite far enough to be broken.


What would you like to talk about?


William Black: I’d like to talk about the desire for painting, and paintings as the result of continuous practice. I’ve no idea why I desire to paint, it’s something that people have often asked, but I can’t answer. I just feel the need to cover surfaces with pigment. And I feel this is a basic psychological need, or process, or desire, which has something to do with the formation of a completed art object that exists in and of itself.


Looking for a subject matter then became an additional need, led by a fascination with the world and current affairs. My desire to make a political statement about the human interventions in the natural world, technology, social injustice and suppression of the poor, led me to produce a series of works about world trade and the violent imposition of state power in the introduction of global free trade agreements.


The work in the show in OUTPOST is the result of a sudden clarification after a long period of working, about the themes of urban form, biological textbooks, current affairs, and trying to work in a looser informal style based on the type of doodling I used to do in Geography and Biology lessons. I wanted to simplify these for the sake of producing a unified statement of formality, flowing from the ideas of landscape erosion, technological intervention in degraded landscapes, the effect of invasive species, disruption of fragile environments and violent change brought about by inadvertent human pressures.


It’s difficult to talk about the actual way that they are painted, except for the fact that you have to do a certain amount of work before something of any value comes out of it. This is similar to scientific progress, and the role of intuition in developing an idea. That there is a certain degree of trust in the elements, and there’s also an element of gambling, taking risks. Painting comes with a blind faith in the gamblers wheel, the unconscious, and the scraping together of painterly truth from a random accretion of chance gestures and a deeper belief in the power of the collective human sub consciousness. Mass consciousness through mass media, information overload through constant bombardment with information, the painter’s desire to retreat into a cave of thickly textured painterly surfaces mirrors the human need for retreat from the earths surface increasingly degraded by pollution, species, ecosystem and landscape destruction, and irreversible climate change.


I became interested in the philosophy of science and the process of science through the work of Kuhn and Popper, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’, which describes the way that science evolves not as a gradual unrolling of discovery, but as a set of ideas or paradigms, that undergo gradual change before being replaced by another set of ideas, through the mechanism of dis-provement, of testing, of the falsification of received ideas. When a theory can no longer be falsified it is believed to be true. Over a period of time a series of paradigm shifts takes place.


Similar changes occurring in the dominant political model of neo-liberal free market economics, which is increasingly being seen to increase inequality in such a way that the structure of society is threatened. Inequality itself becomes a threat to economic development. As Thomas Piketty has been showing, that an increasingly unequal society is an increasingly inefficient one, as the rate of interest surpasses the savings of the poor. As we search for new economic paradigms we search for new relationships to the natural world.


According to James Lovelock, in his latest book, human beings may be Gaia’s finest product, a wonderfully fascinating, inherently creative creature, able to withstand any adverse environmental conditions, proliferating and spreading life throughout the universe. With the innovations of conscious self-thought, information harvesting and endless technical advance comes the possibility of human redemption through a wiser, saner vision of a world based on justice not greed.