Tag Archives: Anish Kapoor

How artists want to be seen

Some Artist are interested in their self image. They make specific choices how they want to appear. Here are two different sets of collections: Artists referring to the motive of the hand or the mouth or both and Artists with different animals. I find both revealing and engaging.




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Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy

Art for babies / Understanding the sublime


Baby stacking cups

Before I longwindedly describe my walk through the exhibition at the Royal Academy in London I want to propose a thesis about Anish Kapoors work which before this exhibition hadn’t occurred to me in this intensity.

A lot of his sculpture draws its touching and involving strength through regressing the viewer into a state of perception that is that of a baby or toddler.

This is a surely contestable thesis, but seems as I want to explain in the following have some grip. In other work shown in the exhibition (mostly more recent work)  body experiences are evoked, like menstruation ,ejaculation, wounding or shitting. I felt the need to articulate some of these observations as they have only been marginally mentioned in any of the cultural channels reviewing this exhibition or his work. As I am not a scholar I might be wrong and there are extensive writings about my observation and I want to excuse my ignorance if this is the case.



“Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers”, 1981. Wood, cement, polystyrene and pigment, 97 x 76.2 x 160cm. Tate. Installed at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2009. Photo: Dave Morgan

The first room of the exhibition contains earlier small works powdered in glowing pigment. The objects seem to be in the room in an virtual manner. The glow and intensity of the pigment almost overrides the 3dimensional character of the objects. The objects aggressively redefine the space that surrounds them. While our perception works hard to comprehend this redefinition of space it knocks down the doors into our subconscious.


pregnant woman

At the same time the shapes and colours of the objects are very close to shape and colour of toddler and baby toys. It might not be a coincidence that the only other work in the room is a little white bump almost invisibly bulging out of the wall, called ” When I am pregnant” . The objects, shapes and colours are all part of our first experiences as human beings, which makes his sculptures so effective and powerful even or specially to an audience which is not educated in art history.


“When I was pregnant” by Anish Kapoor




The next room has a huge concave yellow wall shape. Its size and coloration makes it difficult to decide where the solid carrier of the colour is situated. Foreground and background de-solve.  Another regression into a phase of the early development of our perception. Into a time before we were able to tell the difference between foreground and background ,before we could tell the difference between us and the other.


‘Yellow’, 1999. Fibreglass and pigment, 6 x 6 x 3 m. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, London.at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2009. Photo: Dave Morgan

What people describe as the experience of the sublime I would rather call an experience of regression. Obviously this regression puts us nearer to the place of nonexistence or being an object rather than a subject. Which maybe could help understanding what people mean when they talk of the sublime and their experience of it.



Photographs courtesy of the Gladstone Gallery

The room that follows contains a number of concave and convex mirrors. Perfectly crafted. To stay on course of my thesis the mirrors obviously deal with another basic moment in the development of our perception. The discovery of ourselves in relation to our surroundings. A large step from the very early stages dealt with in the first rooms. The shaping of the mirrors creates effects like in a fairground House of Mirrors. Its placing, size and angles are superseding any House of Mirrors though. They are just too well done. But they are noticeably easier to intellectualise than the work in the previous room, which indicates to me that the phase they are regressing to is later and not as deep.



‘Hive’, 2009. Corten steel, 5.6 x 10.07 x 7.55m. Courtesy of the artist, Lisson Gallery, London, and Gladstone Gallery, New York. installed at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2009. Photo: Dave Morgan

Now I am entering a central circular room which contains a vast rusty sculpture reminding me of some kind of voluptious submarine. When I surround it I find a large vulva like opening. I don’t want to state the obvious, but I am gasping between the legs of a woman out of the perspective of a very small child.



Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

The next room is exclusively dedicated to sculptures made out of something that looks like raw unburnt clay. In fact it is concrete sausages. Only their colour  is different to shit. Reflecting about it, its obvious that shit is the first sculpture a human being forms. Not with his hands necessarily but it is a deeply sculptural experience. The regression here is into a time when the child is discovering the body and its actions.



The last of the inner rooms contains a sculpture forming again a kind of vulva connected to an organically shaped tube . Some kind of sexual organ , that is much more of a classical sculpture and lacks a little the regressive and suggestive power of his other work in the exhibition. I am clearly moving away from point of entrance (birth).



Svayambh by Anish Kapoor

The exhibition is framed by two large and spectacular wax works. They are quite different to the rooms I just described and to stay with my attempt of a basic human interpretation of the works, reflect for me more concepts than actual sculpture. Meet the parents. We have a canon shooting red wax against a wall and a big red wax shape being pulled through doors. The following words come to mind : Ejaculation, birth, foreground, background, active, passive, gun, house, blood, papa, mama.


‘Shooting into the Corner’, 2008-09. Mixed media, dimensions variable. MAK, Vienna, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art. Installed at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2009. Photography: Dave Morgan

Although these works are the most spectecular works in the exhibition, I feel they are also the weakest as they refer to art history and art making , without ever superseding their points of reference. ( look at Richard Serra’s splashing of hot fluid metal against a museum wall and at Joseph Beuys wax shapes taken from the negativ spaces under a footbridge  in one of the first Muenster Skulpturen Projekte in the 70ties).

Their regressional power is zero and in this they are substantially different to the rest of the work. They are just too grown up.

Markus Vater


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