Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On not seeing the Anish Kapoor exhibition

I went to London last week to stay with friends and to visit some galleries and museums.

At the Royal Academy I bought a ticket for the Wild Thing exhibition (Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Eric Gill) but stumbled accidentally into the first room of the Anish Kapoor show - which I didn't realise was on.

I found myself in the room containing the piece called Shooting into the Corner but which might equally appropriately be titled: Meat Gun. My initial reaction was something like my mother's response on seeing Antony Gormley's sculpture of a lone, abandoned foetus in an empty room, namely: 'Oh dear'.

But I didn't have a ticket and was politely directed to the Wild Thing exhibition which was good but - on reflection - pretty tame.

And then last night I watched a TV program about Anish Kapoor's Royal Academy show (Imagine, Winter 2009: The Year of Anish Kapoor, BBC1 Tuesday, 17 November) and - it's clear - I'm going to have to go back to London again and see it for real.

But I'm not beating myself up about it. After all, a lot of Modern Art is pretty hard to take seriously - and especially so when endlessly talked about, analysed etc. It was pretty much the same last night as I watched Alan Yentob appreciating some of Anish Kapoor's earlier sculptures from the comfort of my sofa. "It's quite disorienting in a rather interesting way", said Alan and I thought 'Here we go again - another disorientation opportunity. I just can't get enough of them.'

But then, about halfway through the program I did start to get interested and to recognise something of substance, something capable of stirring up the sediment and bringing the machinery back to life. And this is what I thought and what I now want to go and check out on the spot.

I found myself intrigued by all of Anish Kapoor's work (as experienced on the TV screen) but some of them, like the huge concrete wormcasts set on wooden pallets, invoked strong, somewhat disturbing feelings but no words.

The pieces that led me to a sense of discovery were the highly-finished ones - smooth, curved objects, either mirrored or painted in high-gloss. Like all sculptures they are physical objects but I sensed that they are intended to be perfect - or as close to perfection as a real physical object can be. And the point of this perfection is to enable us to see, not the sculpture itself, but something else - either the world reflected (in the case of the mirrored objects) or an abstraction - a void, hole or tunnel, an idea.

Anish Kapoor made a huge mirrored sculpture in Chicago called Cloud Gate (popularly known as the Bean). People love to touch it and are encouraged to. It is polished afresh every day.

It's good to be surprised.

No comments:

Post a Comment