Anish Kapoor – Royal Academy – Autumn 2009

Shooting into the Corner, Royal Academy, 2009

His little piles of powder are intensely beautiful in colour. And yet …

The reflective perfection of the mirrors is a joy to behold. And yet ..

The buzz of expectation in waiting for the cannon to eject its barrel of bloody wax is palpable. And yet …

And yet I’m not quite sure what is all adds up to. I can’t deny that there is a sense of wonder in walking around the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy. But what I struggle to find is some lasting argument within the exhibition, some defining narrative that makes me alter how I see the world. The works are full of allusions, but have very few reference points. One can feel the exhibition, but what do you take away? It’s clear that the the body, sex, defaecation, the universe, the self and the art gallery itself are all part of the thematic make up of his oeuvre. He makes us aware that sex is ubiquitous; and that the spiritual is just the flip side of the scatological.

Svayambh, Royal Academy, 2009

Is that Kapoor stretches too far, whirring through an endless panoply of tricks, without ever stopping to work through the deeper ramifications of what he is saying. Or is that that we are tricked into such reactions? The artist’s hand is often non-existent (all metal and mirror in the larger works) and the exhibition therefore leaves a sense of dislocation between the atmosphere of philosophical eloquence and the mechanical, soulless way in which such a sensation is created. Do we yearn for a voice to shine through the light?

I doubt, of course, Kapoor will care. He may indeed point to entirely different genesis for his work, drawing on traditions far removed from the sources that inform much western art. Kapoor’s oeuvre is more closely aligned to a Buddhist world where everything and nothing is said; where life is perceived rather than interpreted. There is little of the fetishising of intellectual complexity that Christian art, and much of the western art tradition, demands. Kapoor may occasionally reference other texts or myths, but the creation of the huge abstract gestures that fill and take control of the Royal Academy galleries negate the need for such contexts.

I think Anish Kapoor is great for the art world. He produces grand, spectacular art that draws in believers and non-believers. He gets attention. He makes art exciting. Yet I would fervently insist that he is not seen as the pinnacle of achievement. There is much more that art can achieve.


Filed under Anish Kapoor, Contemporary Art, Royal Academy

3 responses to “Anish Kapoor – Royal Academy – Autumn 2009

  1. “There is much more that art can achieve.”

    Please elaborate..

  2. linda k

    If a thing or its meaning is fully revealed, what is left to think or say? I prefer to look for the thing that might have come before, but now comes again differently – as this does

  3. Hi,

    I really like the way you write about your personal response to this exhibition! In trawling the web for articles about Anish Kapoor’s work I often find the same syndicated write-up over and over, and unfortunately mostly it hesitates to make a stance on its subject. You speak about “the mechanical, soulless way in which [the work] is created”. Well, I wished there was more written about the anything-but- soulless process of how these works come into being. I work for Aerotrope, who are engineers for Anish Kapoor and have helped make Svayambh (‘the train), Shooting…(‘the cannon’) and Hive at the RA. Trying to make these things work is an exciting and emotionally charged time for our engineers, who are often working right on the limit of what is possible. The arch of interaction that is drawn from the artist’s vision to the reality of physics and materials available is patterned by the sensitivity of individuals towards this, the unknown, which the artist strives to achieve. Ultimately the artist’s vision is bound or, if you like, tempted down to earth by material constraints and the care and attention of a team of very different disciplines- designers, engineers, fabricators. The process is quite beautiful in that it draws very different people close together to make something new that serves only the purpose of art. Wished more articles were written about this hidden process, because it would certainly inform the finished piece, and perhaps give it more ‘soul’.

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