Published in RuTC Magazine, October 2009
Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy of Arts
By Amy Page
“I have often said that I have nothing to say as an artist. Having something to say implies that one is struggling with meaning. The role of the artist is in fact that we don’t know what to say, and it is that not knowing that leads to the work.” – Anish Kapoor
Anish Kapoor is a significant artist who has exerted tremendous influence over fellow artists of his generation, yet is someone relatively unknown. I personally hadn’t heard of him until I saw posters all over London of his unusual, colourful and textural creations. Kapoor was awarded the Turner prize in 1991, the year I and many of you were born, so in our memories he is sometimes lost in the abyss of artists who are not yet dead and remembered, but aren’t a la mode and claiming inches of newspaper columns with their latest stunts (naming no names, Damien Hirst).
What sets Anish Kapoor apart from other contemporary artists is his thorough exploration of colour and form with each series of sculptures being different to any that he has done before. The exhibition hosts rooms of mirrors, fantastical objects covered in colour pigment, sculptures created out of wax, cement, iron, fibreglass and marble, works coming out and going into the wall, a massive slow-moving carriage of wax that travels the length of five galleries and a canon. This one man show is a menagerie of mediums, leaving the spectator dizzied with visual stimulation.
Another aspect of the exhibition that distinguishes it from others is the interactivity of it; one can walk around, through and under the sculptures, making it a more enjoyable exhibition to see, breaking the mould of the sometimes monotonous experience one has when looking at painting after painting in a gallery.
One of the most memorable rooms is the home of Kapoor’s ‘Non-objects’ which are deceiving mirrors which are enjoyable and akin to a house of mirrors at a fun fair. They are exquisitely smooth and polished with all traces of human manufacture removed, to help induce the experience of the “contemporary sublime”. One mirror turns everything upside down, but once you are dizzyingly close, it is reverted back to normal but magnified. The are two huge bowl shapes hanging on the wall which you can completely submerge your head in, a long curved mirror ‘wall’ and a few free-standing 3D shapes which are, in lack of other words, ‘trippy’. The only downside of this part was its environment; the effect would have been enhanced if it had been in a plain white room, rather than an old classical floor-boarded room at the RoyalAcademy with those metal grates in the floor, taking away from the potentially transcendental effect.
For me, the supposed highlight of the exhibition ‘Shooting into the Corner’ (2008-09) was an overrated anticlimax. ‘Shooting into the Corner’ is a canon which, every twenty minutes, fires a shell of wax (weighing about 20lbs) into another room at 50mph. It sounds impressive but the reality was disappointing. I am probably in a minority thinking this, as a young adult and a girl but the waiting around in a cramped space with a limited view wasn’t worth the final heavily anticipated ‘pop’ of wax hitting a wall, to cumulate with the hundreds of other obliterated shells of wax. It cheered up the young kids who had been dragged along immensely, but I left disgruntled with sore feet.
All in all I enjoyed it greatly and it will stay in my memory as one of the most fun exhibitions that I have been to. It was also thought-provoking and challenged my ideas of the role of colour and my perceptions of modern art, which may need to be seriously rethought!