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18.11.2009

 

Anish Kapoor - large-scale solo show at the Royal Academy of Arts

Internationally acclaimed artist Anish Kapoor, winner of the 1991 Turner Prize and Premio Duemila at the 1990 Venice Biennale, presents his sculptural work in a major solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The show, which has a monumental, retrospective feel to it, explores Kapoor’s career to date, exhibiting a number of new and previously unseen works.

Anish Kapoor, born in Mumbai 1954, has become the first British contemporary artist to be given all the main galleries at the Royal Academy for a solo show. And it really feels as if he has taken over this age old, well established British art institution for the next couple of months. From the trailing queue in the courtyard, to the sheer mass of posters advertising his exhibition all over London’s buses, tubes and train stations, to the actual decadent positioning of his breath-taking, larger than life pieces, which swallow up the usually impressive, traditional galleries, with their attention-grabbing presence.

All of the pieces at the show grab the observer’s attention, but ‘Svayambh’, which translates from Sanskrit as ‘born by itself’ or ‘self-generated’ is truly the most dominant piece. As soon as one enters the exhibition, one might not be able to immediately see it, but the overwhelming scent of its wax fills the rooms, as does the piece itself later on. It occupies five galleries, resulting in two galleries being eclipsed so that they cannot be entered.

The ‘self-generated’ sculpture is a 40 ton arch-shaped block of red wax, paint and Vaseline. It moves across the galleries on tracks, at an incredibly slow pace which is difficult to identify upon first glance. The deep, startling red mass, which is soft and sludge-like to the touch, leaves a blood coloured trail in its midst, spilling over to the royal doorways which dictate its shape.

Each of Anish Kapoor’s exhibits appeals to the senses. An immediate primitive instinct is to reach out and touch them, to feel their different textual features, however this is prohibited due to the extreme fragility of the works. Thus the visitors have to rely on their eyes to lap up Kapoor’s art. Or navigate his artwork by foot, taking extra care not to knock or trip over it, as is the case with ‘Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked’, a daunting, labyrinth-like collection of cement sculptures grouped closely together in a confined space. Here one can peer into, behind, across or next to this tangled series of grey pieces.

The exhibition’s funfair-like hall of mirrors or ‘non-objects’ as Kapoor refers to them, is just as unsettling and difficult to navigate. The closer the observer is physically drawn into the highly polished concave mirrored objects, the more they are confused. The observer disappears, sees the world turned upside down or feels a nauseous sense of vertigo and is almost blinded by the bright silver light reflected in front of them. These ‘Non-Objects’ truly warp the viewers’ grip on reality and sense of groundedness. The closer I got, the more I felt I was genuinely going to be sucked into the strange portal or trip over backwards, dumbstruck by its subtle, yet effective hold on me.

Another highlight was of course the ‘Shooting into the Corner’ piece, which some of our Austrian GoSee readers may recognise from its recent installment in Vienna, earlier this year. Each 20 minutes the cannon is loaded with a  shell of red wax by an official cannon firer, dressed in a black artistic looking jumpsuit and a solemn expression on his face, unaffected by the crowds of inquisitive faces that gather before him, three times an hour. He heaves the 20 pound wax pellet into the cannon and fires, the red wax hits the wall in the adjacent room at fifty miles per hour, making its mark for all to see. With each day that passes, the piece will accumulate more wax, some thirty tons of wax are expected to amass in the corner by 11 December, the closing date of this marvellous, inspiring exhibition.

Visitors are advised to book tickets in advance from the website to avoid long queues that have become the everyday standard of this exhibition. Another GoSee tip on avoiding crowds is to kick off the weekend with a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts on its Friday night late openings, with free live music, a bar and extended opening times until 10pm every Friday.

Anish Kapoor

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
Piccadilly
London W1J 0BD
10am-6pm Sunday-Thursday (last admission to galleries 5.30pm)
10am-10pm Friday (last admission to galleries 9.30pm)
10am-9pm Saturday (last admission to galleries 8.30pm)


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