Anish Kapoor – Royal Academy of Arts, 29 November 2009

Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy of ArtsI read this week that the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts is now the most visited exhibition of a living artist there.

The galleries were certainly very busy on the day I was there. Luckily, I’d purchased my ticket for the first slot of the day in advance. The queue was already big by the time I got there and it was bigger still by the time I left. But the people who queued, in the rain, would certainly agree that it was worth it.

From one gallery to the next, people were enjoying themselves. Children (and there were a lot there!) were trying to work out what things were and how they worked. Older folks were having fun.
The only two people I overheard who were clearly not having any fun were two die-hard Royal Academy fans… who decided that this was the sort of exhibition that people would say they liked, just because it’s trendy to say so. They’d also decided that there was nothing new there.

Well… everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course.

The thing about Anish Kapoor, I find, is that he makes you marvel at the simplest things. Be it the shape, smoothness or the idea behind each of his works.

The exhibition booklet states that Anish Kapoor’s “exploration of form and space and his use of colour and material have profoundly influenced the course of contemporary sculpture.

Take Yellow for example.  Literally, we have a coloured indentation in a wall. But the density of the colour and the smoothness of the hole make you stare for ages. You can lose yourself in there.

Non-objects reminds you of those mirrored galleries at funfairs. And yes, they are fun. But they also confuse you and trick you. Where are you? What exactly are you looking at? “I make these works because I feel this is a new spatial adventure. To make new art you have to make new space” (Anish Kapoor).

And Svayambh plays a trick on you too. At first, you find yourself looking at the huge block of red wax. And then you realise that slowly, very slowly, it moves. It moves across five galleries and through the classical doorways, up and down tracks, all day long, leaving wax along the way. When you read the notes, you find out that Svayambh roughly means ‘self-generated’ in Sanskrit. And that’s a concept which is dear to Kapoor’s heart. The idea that you, as the artist, come up with the concept of the work… but the art makes itself. “Self-authored sculpture.”

Anish Kapoor

 And then there’s the crowd-pleaser, Shooting into the Corner. Ushered into a small space, people chat with anticipation for the moment when the canon is loaded. Every 20 minutes, a reverential silence descends on the room as the crowd watch the canon being loaded. And bang. Approximately 20 pounds of wax is fired into a corner of the Small Weston Room. The wax piles up into the corner. It’s fun and messy. It’s also violent. And again, art creates itself.
Tall Tree and The Eye    Tall Tree and The Eye (detail)

Tall Tree and the Eye merges the old (the Royal Academy building) with the new (shiny spheres). And similarly, it also tricks you into bringing the sky )and the clouds) and the earth together. It allows you to explore and play with shapes and reflections. The spheres look like they’re attached to each other randomly… but the perspectives and reflections are no coincidences.

Close view of Tall Tree and The Eye

I loved it.

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I'm an inquisitive being. Everything is an adventure: art, architecture, colours, food, patterns, people... and travel! And I love elephants. That's what I mostly write about.
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