Richard Blackwell has long been fascinated with space in an astronomical sense. Now, in the exhibition 0, 0, 0 (zero, zero, zero) Blackwell contemplates the digital illusion of space, revolving around ‘the grid acting as a symbol of the infinite space of virtual reality.’1 In 1979, the art theorist Rosalind Krauss wrote a seminal essay citing the integral place that the grid had upon much twentieth century modernist art.2 Starting with Mondrian, Malevich and the Russian Constructivists, Krauss traced a line through to the minimalist and conceptual artists of the 1970s, and indeed, the trajectory continues to this day through the various practitioners of non-objective abstraction. A key attitude that Krauss noted was that for artists using the grid, it was a deliberate stance taken against ‘nature’, or the then-standard practice of artists observing and reacting only to the real world. By comparison, the grid was a structure unto itself – it depicted itself, it referred only to itself, it declared ‘the space of art to be at once autonomous and autotelic.’3 In the particular case of Mondrian and his de Stijl comrades, the grid’s denial of ‘nature’ inversely allowed a contemplation on that absence, that is, one where the grid implied ‘the (spiritual) staircase to the Universal;’ consequentially, it also highlighted their disinterest in the activities occurring ‘below, in the Concrete.’4 Now, in the 21st century, the advances in virtual reality present a further complexity to this pursuit for such digital technology seeks to present the viewer with an ‘authentic’ alternate experience of reality (or ‘nature’) utilising a pixel-based structure that is also firmly based on the grid. In the works comprising 0, 0, 0 (zero, zero, zero), Blackwell makes his own determinations on this conundrum through a range of 2- and 3-dimensional object/imagery.
For example, Blackwell’s multi-faceted wall works in marble and ceramic present manifold possibilities as to the arrangement of identical elements within clearly defined and gridded boundaries. It is as if he is attempting to represent the basic 0-1 binary code in formal, though structural, relief. For the vast majority who are not versed in computer language, binary code remains a vague concept though one whose importance is well recognised (after all, the mass panic of the Millennium [Y2K] Bug could not have arisen otherwise). Blackwell’s associated engraved Formica panels also integrate the grid but embrace their virtual origin by displaying undulating surfaces, labyrinthine structures or an ‘open shell, whose inside and outside surface the viewer can see … like space and a voluminous lump.’ He also attempts to reconcile the original division caused by the grid’s denial of nature by projecting the grid over a sequence of topographies, capturing each result in powder-coated steel. The anchor for the exhibition, however, is the series of eight relief prints done in collaboration with Kate Conlon at the Kala Institute in 2016 which foreground the subsequent marble and ceramic constructions. Blackwell notes that ‘the prints texture comes from a composite wood material which is both organic and inorganic at the same time, a kind of compression of natural materials.’ Finally, the Possible Solar Systems series return to the cosmos itself, the driving inspiration for all ideas on space. Each image scatters spheres into ‘a simulation of a distant solar system, which (in all possible probability) exists somewhere in the universe.’ For Blackwell, this particular universe now contains every possibility down to the smallest of its atoms, be they virtual or not.
 Richard Blackwell, 2018. Non-cited quotes also drawn from this source.
 Rosalind Krauss, ‘Grids’, October, MIT, Massachusetts, vol. 9 (Summer, 1979), pp. 50-64
 Rosalind Krauss, op cit., p.52. ‘Autotelic’ refers to an activity or a creative work which has ‘an end or purpose in itself.’
 ibid, p.52.
Catalogue essay by Andrew Gaynor 2018
Blackwell was a recipient of the 2012 Fulbright Scholarship and completed his Masters in Fine Art at the School of Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. In 2011 Blackwell exhibited a major series GROTTO, an exhibition in 3 volumes, which was shown in Canberra, Melbourne and Chicago and supported by the Australia Council of the Arts. His work has been collected for ARTBANK, NAB Collection, The Justin Collection and has been profiled in Australian Art Review. Most recently he has been working and residing in Doha, Qatar in an academic capacity.