Aesthetica Art Prize: Interview with Denys Blacker, Longlisted Artist

Conceptual artist Denys Blacker has been longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2015. Living and working in Spain, Blacker uses performance, sculpture and drawing to explore themes of symmetry and precision. Her selected piece The Noble Gases will appear in the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition and anthology later this month. A series of seven performances for camera, The Noble Gases is based on Blacker’s research into the Periodic Table. The artist examines the malleable and shape-shifting properties of individual gases whilst looking at their relationship to reality and consciousness in everyday life. We speak to Blacker about her ongoing search to decipher the magic behind the building blocks of our material world.

A: You have been longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2015. What does this opportunity mean to you?
DB: I haven’t ever actively promoted my work in the gallery and exhibition system, so it’s going to interesting to see what opportunities I might have and what they might mean. I imagine that this is a great chance to show my work to a larger audience. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!

A: The Noble Gases is a series of performances for camera. How have you adapted this medium to suit your ideas?
DB: I rarely make performance works for camera, preferring photographic documentation of my work. The Noble Gases series was developed over a period of time as a series of short performances, in response to the properties and uses of each gas. I took one image from each performance and developed them as a series for camera in a process of conceptual distillation.

A: What inspired you to make this series?
DB: The Noble Gases is the first stage of a project to work through the entire Periodic Table of Elements, making a live performance work and short video for each element. I am intrigued by the strangeness of their properties and the infinity of things that they are used for; from everyday objects such as refrigerators to particle accelerators and space travel.

A: In your opinion, how readily do art and science unite with each other?
DB: The separation between the arts and science has become porous in a very interesting way. Scientists are working alongside artists to investigate many things including creativity, intuition and imagination. At the outer limits of scientific discovery, our dualistic way of looking at the world is crumbling and there are mysteries and anomalies that can only be expressed in metaphorical and artistic ways.

A: Can you talk about other research avenues or projects?
DB: I’m investigating consciousness and looking at the ways that contemporary scientific discoveries about the nature of reality and interconnectedness can be explored. I’m also looking at how ancient Chinese texts can shed light on the process of improvisation, freed from the restraints of linear time as we understand it, where action and reflection, concept and emotion, attention and concentration flow together.

Aesthetica Art Prize 2015, 26 March-31 May, York St Mary’s, Castlegate, York YO1 9RN.

The award is open for entries and closes 31 August. See more at

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1. Denys Blacker, The Noble Gases, (2014). Courtesy of the artist.