Richard Blackwell’s collision of the digital and ‘real life’


In Climbing the Plane, print media and sculptures collide. A continuation of the ideas from Richard Blackwell’s 2016 show Doubling the Cube, the artist is exploring the places where the real and unreal intersect in our increasingly digitised world. “It’s about the kind of augmented world we’re moving towards, and trying to approach the junction between physical and virtual,” the Sydneybased artist says.

Blackwell’s modular pieces range from colour prints to aluminium geological forms, modelled after rock climbing grips, as well as robotically engraved designs rubbed and buffed with etching ink to create a distorted sense of depth. The pieces, some of which are reconfigured from previous projects, will be spread across the gallery space to create a physical manifestation of the Cartesian grid.

“These works are fragmented and abstracted, and show a document of both our society and life in virtual reality, as well as trying to capture a sense of the overwhelming scale of the virtual world as the metaverse takes shape as a result of the pandemic and the pace of technology,” Blackwell says. “The plane is an analogy for that endless virtual world, and climbing it is the task we seem to be in.”

Particularly in the context of the pandemic, Blackwell’s work highlights the increasingly ubiquitous feeling of unreality, or life as simulation. “For me, there’s a bit more of a futility to this show because of the post-Covid context that we’re in, and the infinite nature of this space that I’m creating,” he says. “While it’s intended to allude mostly to the idea of virtual reality, I think it’s also highlighting the repetitive nature of the last three years.”

Climbing the Plane
Richard Blackwell
Flinders Lane Gallery
10—28 May

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen