As you enter the Lisson Gallery to view Anish Kapoor’s latest exhibition you are drawn immediately into the space by a mesmerising circle of corrugated stainless steel which, with its jagged nature, distorts and morphs your reflection. The piece is fittingly entitled ‘Halo 2006’, as it seems to adhere to some kind of divine experience; sucking you into another dimension, or acting as a gateway to the deeper void. This piece, although perhaps not the most impressive exhibit, like all the of the work in the exhibition, deals with reoccurring themes of the exploration of the void, human perception, transformation and the transcending of time and space.

Kapoor entered onto the art scene in the 1980’s as one of a number of young new British sculptors working in a new style and gaining international recognition for their work. Since his first sculptures (simple objects often arranged on the floor, covered with bright powdered pigment, partially revealing the shape whilst suggesting to the viewer that something lay beyond their vision) Anish Kapoor has produced sculptures using materials such as resin, stone, glass, plastic, wax, bronze, PVC to make up a diverse and multifaceted body of work. Indeed the exhibition heralds a new body of work, well-made and perfectly crafted featuring pockets, holes, chasms and cavities. It seem to push the viewer to consider his/her position within the space and the possibilities of an object simultaneously filling the space, whilst describing its emptiness. Homi K. Bhabha has before pointed us to a perfect metaphorical tool to describe Kapoors constant preoccupation with the theme of physical presence versus emptiness, in that of Heidegger’s parable of the jug : of what is the jug made? [1] The clay that has shaped the vessel or the negative space within it? Kapoor is not revealing new space but suggesting it; his art is the suggestion of other or non-space, of the void. His use of dense, heavy, hard stone in Untitled (the only work outside in the open air), a large boulder with a shiny black polished block gauged on its front side seems to deal specifically with this notion of the physical versus the void. This static bulbous object holds a delicate window to somewhere other. When walking away from the stone block, the light on this polished window seems to dance, shifting and warping the opening.

As a Tuner prize winner (1991), and a representee of Britain in the 1990 Venice Biennial, Kapoor was at this time at the height of the art world, and it is interesting to consider how innovative his artworks are today. The central themes within his work seem always to be constant, as Kapoor himself states, ‘I am doing the same things I was doing when I thought it first possible to become an artist. Some interests have deepened but really the central issues have remained the same.’ [2] Kapoor has always placed an emphasis on the psychological, believing that art is not about intellectual or theoretical activity, but deeply rooted within the self and his work has resonances of Freudian imagery.The dual western and eastern influences within his work, the continuous references to male and female, the fuel of the psyche, the never ending press for the viewer to think beyond the object in front of them to the forces and energy that the object is imposing, are lasting. Another room in the gallery holds In/Out, a deep purple elongated cavity, standing as both a vessel and extruding form made from a highly polished reflective plastic. The piece like many is well made, and seems to exist incomprehensibly independent from its making. When comparing Kapoor’s early work, namely the 1000 Names series it seems the artist was presenting objects that were more unmade; that appeared almost organic. What is definitely certain is that through not only a wider scope of opportunity, but the nature of the work progressing, Kapoor is able to realize projects on a larger scale. As he says, ‘An essential issue in my work is that the scale always relates to the body. In the pigment works from 1979 to 1983, a sense of place was generated between the objects. This place has now moved inside the object so it has been necessary to change the scale. The place within is a mind/body space. A shrine for one person.’ [3] So the themes are constant, the materials have changed and the work remains fresh and new. Kapoor manages to create something new whilst still highlighting the same points; his works continue to be different and innovative whilst dealing with the same concrete issues.
Colour has always been a central theme within Kapoor’s work, and this exhibition still denotes this preoccupation featuring deep purples, greens, stark white and black, grey, beige and of course Kapoor's mark of red, the colour of the inside of the body; the colour of blood. In his objects and forms the border between painting and sculpture becomes blurred. This is never more apparent than in the impressive work, ‘Past, Present, Future’, where the wall seems to describe an imposing, seemingly spinning sphere of splattering blood red. The vast globe seems to whirl, and yet again the viewer feels an attraction, or some kind of pull into the void, which is kept hidden. As Kapoor stated in an interview in Art Monthly over ten years ago, ‘I think I am a painter who is a sculptor: My view is that sculpture has always been about presence in the world; a kind of emanating out of the world- physical, here. What I have always been engaged in- which is what I think painters do- is to deal with an illusionary presence in the world; one that isn’t necessarily here.’[4] This statement is still very much relevant to Kapoor’s current work, and although he creates three-dimensional sculptural forms, the themes that they deal with and the emotions that they induce very much belong to painting. Kapoor’s intention is to create sculptures that don’t just deal with questions of form but also address the themes of belief, passion or experiences beyond material concerns.

Downstairs, there is a small room almost tucked away, containing some models for possible forthcoming architectural projects. These smaller models are at first somewhat unassuming, in their contrast to the engulfing sculptures upstairs. Kapoor has taken on many public art projects recently, and indeed has become well known for his colossal public works. Most notable in this exhibition is the project for ‘Monte Sant’Angelo underground station in Naples’, which will surround the entrance escalators of the Naples underground, as if to go down them would be like entering a dark hole going deep into the earth. As a member of the Arts Council, Kapoor helped dispense money to make art more accessible, to realize more public art projects. These works still seem to evoke the same feelings for the viewer that his more man-sized sculptures do upstairs, Kapoor shows here he can be inventive and versatile.

In the second of the gallery spaces is Kapoor’s first ever collaboration with the literary figure Salman Rushdie, which results from a twenty year dialogue between the two. Kapoor has crossed the interdisciplinary divide, which one of his early influencers Beuys found important; thought and discussion being core materials. This piece shocks and disgusts the viewer, the text and the object seem to be in perfect harmony in their effect, indeed Rushdie says of his relationship with Kapoor, ‘We share a strong interest in the continuing power of the myth, and his (Kapoor's) forms, though they clearly belong to his own universe shape, arise out of an interest, very similar to my own, in the physicality of the body and existing world of phenomenon.’ [5] The work ‘Blood Relation’ appears, in contrast to the other works, to have a somewhat sinister air. Two giant bronze boxes are filled with blood red wax shapes that look like wombs. In the first box there is also material which looks like it could be intestines or perhaps aborted foetus. The big bronze boxes feel almost like giant coffins holding flesh within them. This morbid feeling is intensified when Rushdie’s text engraved on the outside of the boxes is read, the first two paragraphs of a Scheherazade tale (from 1001 Arabian Nights), which describes the horror of the ancient story the rape and massacre of virgins.

Kapoor is a magician of our time, and this exhibition is both mentally and physically stimulating. The exhibition leaves your senses and perhaps balance, reeling from its constant illusions and metaphysical encounters. Nothing has yet been said about the beauty of the exhibition, which is undeniable, but at the same time the fear that these objects induce. The deep dark voids can create this sinister notion of another, unknown space. Yves Klein’s ‘Leap into the Void’ has some similar reactions, in that it is dealing with this notion of the dematerialization into space, the work in this exhibition is challenging and asks the viewer to consider the possibility of their dematerialization into space. As Kapoor stated in a recent interview, ‘The act of looking is also an act of giving- its not just an act of taking.’ [6]

[1] Bhabha. H. K, ‘Anish Kapoor’, (1998), London, The Hayward Gallery and University of California Press. (p19)

[2] Art monthly June 1990, interview with Douglas Maxwell.

[3] Celant. G, ‘Anish Kapoor’, (1998), Milan, Edizioni Charta.

[4] Art monthly June 1990, interview with Douglas Maxwell.

[5] Lisson Gallery press release.

[6] Interview with Joan Bakewell, BBC Radio 3, 5/1/01.


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