Saturday, 5 June 2010
Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy: Beautiful Chaos
“Mummy, is it real?” the profound question asked by a child at the Anish Kapoor exhibition to her mother is more accurate than expected. The exhibition at the Royal Academy invites the viewer to ask questions and involve themselves. The organic ambiguities of the sculptures allow them to become states of being.
Indian born Kapoor, is a British installation artist who won the Turner prize in 1991, with notable public sculptures such as Cloud Gate, Millennium Park, Chicago and Sky Mirror at the Rockafeller Center, New York, the doesn’t exactly have to prove himself in his latest exhibition.
This doesn’t, however, mean the works lack enthusiasm. On entrance to the gallery we are met with a glittering sculpture reflecting the Annenberg Courtyard of the picturesque gallery in each of its spheres. Tall Tree and the Eye (2009) appears to be some sort of mathematic structure, its ephemeral presence dislocating the symmetry of the classical courtyard. The day I went was perfect for it as the sun beamed through the courtyard, catching light on the sparkling monument.
Opening the indoor part of the exhibition we see, Hive (2009), occupying the Wohl Central Hall, the large geometrical and symmetrical form looks like an internal space but when you walk around you realise it’s also an object in space.
The most memorable part of the exhibition is definitely Shooting into the Corner (2009) and Svayambh (2007). Svayambh, is one of the most unusual and ambitious installations I have seen at the RA. It occupies the five galleries of the rear enfilade at the gallery. A huge red wax track runs through the rooms with a sold block of wax that slowly makes its way along the track. The block looks as though it just fits through the antique arches, occasionally splashing red wax onto the walls and floor of the white rooms. The word, Svayambh, translates as roughly as ‘self-generated’ from a Sanskrit word. This reflects the way the red block uses the building to shape its form, rather than, as is traditional, using a mould to cast a bronze sculpture, for example. Here, the medium is wax itself. Looking at, Shooting into the Corner, we are invited into a room filled with anticipated viewers as a straight faced assistant loads huge red wax blocks into a canon that shoot out wax into a corner of the white gallery every twenty minutes. The thrill of watching this event is undeniably exciting, murmurs run through the crowd as the canon spits out the shells of red wax, making a surprisingly deafening bang. This drama is what makes the piece so engaging. It also allows the work to be both a painting as sculpture as the walls are piled and splashed with the fired out wax.
The instantly recognisable ‘Kapooresque’ sculptures were the Pigment Works shown together in a room with When I am Pregnant (1992). Kapoor began experimenting with pigment colouring in the 1970’s with his work, 1000 Names. Walking around the rooms we see the organic sculptures at our feet placed together on the floor, they look as if they are natural and self made rather than products of sculpture. The surprises (of which the exhibition has many) are that some of the pigment works seem to be coming out of the wall. This surprise element is reflected in When I am Pregnant, as when you approach it you think the wall is flat, it is only when you get closer than you see it is convex. This sense of ambiguity is seen in most of the works in this collection, such as the emotive, Yellow (1999), that made me immediately smile. This looks, as opposed to the previous work, is concave, but it is only when you approach it that you see how concave it is. This, paired with the extremity of the colour, allows the work to overwhelm the viewer, as though it exists as a living being.
The mirror collection of works or, non-objects, are a concoction of shaped mirrors, distorting the viewers reflection, and are great fun. The whole exhibition itself is about involvement with the viewer. There were many children there when I visited, and I think this is that sort of exhibition that can appeal to all ages. I never expected to be as amused, intrigued, fascinated and surprised as I was on viewing Kapoor’s works. They are playful; form and formlessness intertwined with, at times, uncomfortable reflection. The interactive, awe-inspiring works set your pulse racing and senses raging, leaving viewers walking out with a smile.