Frederik de Wilde: NanoBlck-Sqr#1

Art Free
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Experience utter 'blackness' in the Belgian artist's exhibition.

Black is nothing – it isn’t light or colour, it’s the total absence of it. Not that that’s stopped a whole buttload of musicians, designers, authors, poets and artists from basing their careers around it. But Belgian artist Frederik De Wilde is intent on taking things to the next level, and just like Spinal Tap, he thinks he’s found something that’s ‘none more black’.

The two works on show here feature a material De Wilde developed in collaboration with Nasa and Rice University that promises to be the blackest ever black. The carbon nanotube material – which is apparently grown in a lab – is applied to a big aluminium square in ‘NanoBlck-Sqr #1’ and displayed in a nifty Nasa-branded box in ‘NASABlck-Crcl #1’.

It’s nothing massively new, obviously. Russian suprematist Kazimir Malevich painted a big black square back in 1915 – it was a huge shock at the time, a total reversal of everything art was meant to be. And De Wilde’s black square is deliberately similar to Malevich’s, a black square on a white background. Just blacker. And not shocking or revolutionary.

As an experience of ‘blackness’ it also falls a little flat because it just doesn’t suck you in. Think of how immersive Miroslaw Balka’s huge 2009 black box for the Tate Turbine Hall was. You were totally swallowed up by the darkness there.

But De Wilde’s black is still an awesome-looking material, sucking in all the light in the room, its powdered surface almost shimmering with darkness. It’s up close that it works best – a brilliant absence of anything discernible. In the sterile, almost lab-like environment of this gallery, it’s like a science experiment based around trying to remove all of life’s busyness. A quiet, calm gift of nothing in a world that sometimes just feels too full of somethings. And we could all use a little bit of that every once in a while.

Eddy Frankel

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