Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kapoor's Land of Wonder

Anish Kapoor's retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts on PhotoPeach

Visiting Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts yesterday was like experiencing the Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus again – without the long boring story and characters to distract this time.

The artworks are difficult to describe precisely because they don’t resemble anything real that I have seen. They were all about material, form, size, shapes and beautiful, vivid colours. As we entered, there was an undulating rust-coloured metal cavern of gigantic proportion that filled up the whole hall. And then, there was a huge block of wax in rasberry sorbet colour that slowly made its way on rails between different rooms, its shape being cut out of the curved marble doorways it passed through. Or my favourite: a gigantic wall smoothly curving inwards in the prettiest shade of yellow. It reminded me of nature’s landscapes and Disney fantasies all at once.

And the material and colours somehow invited you to touch them, stare into their curving holes, pose in front of its shiny surfaces, hop over them, slide under them – and just fool around with them. The museum staff was having a tough time stopping people from doing just that, even though, I wonder if Kapoor would really mind. The works looked too solid to be easily harmed by anyone.

I also loved the disregard with which the hallowed, imperial halls of the Royal Academy were being treated. Like the giant paintball sending canons of red colour at fifty miles per hour on the white, white walls of the Academy. Or the coloured wax block cutting through the archways and dropping slimy wax all about the pristine marble floor. It seemed sacrilegious under the ornate ceilings and cold marble of the academy, and somehow gave you a guilty, but immensely satisfying, kick.

Fun is what his works were, and if the squeals of joy and surprise, the anticipation, the gaping mouths and wonder-filled eyes around me were any indication – they achieved their purpose.

(Images courtesy: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe)


Girish Shahane said...

Kapoor hates anybody touching the artwork, so it isn't just the guards. Kind of perverse, making such tactile sculpture and then forbidding people from touching it, but the works retain more mystery and allure that way, I think.

globalbabble said...

It is a bit mean of him. Yes, not letting people touch the works would create more mystery and allure. On the other hand, letting people touch them would create an experience that would last with them forever. It just depends on what you want.

Girish Shahane said...

I'm not so sure that touching would make such a difference to the experience. It would, however, serve to degrade the artwork rapidly. Some things are best left to the imagination.