From the magnitude of Marsyas back in 2002 in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall to the fluid-like elliptical outdoor sculpture Cloud Gate, completed in Chicago’s Millennium Park in 2006, Anish Kapoor has startled the world with simple yet unusual forms that inspire at the same time awe and meditation, surprise and comfort, interest and an unexpected sense of calm. The current exhibition at the Royal Academy offers a chance to experience a variety of examples of the artist’s work since 1981, to be seduced by uncanny shapes, creepy textures, deceiving reflections and altered perceptions.
The viewer is at once stupefied, amazed, entertained, and relaxed. The stupor comes from the unforeseen encounter with a series of voluminous events taking place on walls, ceilings, floors and purposely built mechanisms. One is amazed at the variety of materials, colours, shapes and sizes used, at their juxtaposition and at the contrasts thus created. One experiences a sense of being both outside and inside a sculpture (Hive, 2009), of looking at surfaces that seem to be both concave and convex (Yellow, 1999), of facing a flat wall which stops being flat as we move sideways showing a protuberance which was not there before (When I am Pregnant, 1992). It is entertaining to walk through the Non-object room and play with its geometrically shaped mirrored objects which reflect curious proportions and inverted movements.
One piece of work occupies the entire length of five adjoining rooms. It is called Svayambh (2007), translated as “self generated” from Sanskrit, and it consists of a train track covered with red wax. A thirty-ton red wax engine slides slowly through the track, making the movement hardly perceptible. Pressing through the gallery’s doorways, the huge red mass is given shape by the building in a “self-generating” process which as such exists without an author.
Rather than offering a finished product, Kapoor often works on arranging the conditions for an artwork to happen autonomously, creating a set for objects to interact with each other and with the public, engaging with a sense of time as well as space. Objects here create events and offer experiences with which the viewers actively engage.
The Anish Kapoor exhibition is at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Until 11 December 2009.