Anish Kapoor at the RA
Anish Kapoor held a significant show at the Royal Academy of Art in London
during September through to December 2009. It was the first show by a
living artist to take over the whole of the RA -- and this show did not,
in my opinion, disappoint. To be perfectly honest I find a lot of what
you would call "contemporary art" a tad irrelevant and inconsequential,
and perhaps some of it seems to be "art for art's sake", but
this guy really goes back to basics; his work has material presence, it
has real substance (literally), it is moving, and it can be fun -- you
have to take notice of this artist. I just found the show very thought-provoking
and moving in an elemental way.
The pigment pieces are really delicate and are just nice to look at -- the intensity of the pigment colour really makes them sing; they are almost audible in this sense. The huge steel piece ('Hive') presents an internal space, a kind of inside-out object which almost defies observation. The 'Shooting into the corner' piece (which was featured on the BBC evening news even) seemed a bit silly -- not sure what he was getting at although of course as the gun fired the wax the gallery was packed out to see the spectacle -- it almost seemed like Kapoor playing a joke on the art world, but enjoying the process none-the-less.
The huge lump of wax (called 'Svayambh' meaning self-made) was a little puzzling or incomprehensible, but the sheer size of the wax piece (over 30 tons) moving very slowly along its track was quite awesome. It had the same effect on me as seeing a massive steam train close up, a hulking mass in slow motion, or perhaps how a glacier or tectonic plate may appear to move imperceptibly.
My favourite piece was a collection of clay or concrete pieces crammed into one room (it is called 'Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked' which is a bit grand for such an elemental piece). The visitor was allowed to walk through and around the pieces, each one a pile of varying sized coils of slip or clay-like substance, but reading the notes it turns out to be concrete. Each pile in a different configuration, and a different state of dis-orderedness - some incomplete, some falling down. As I said this had such an elemental quality -- were these things natural, man-made, animal, plant-like -- some looked like guts or faeces, they had a real physical bodily presence.
If you missed the show, there is a great record of it on the RA website, with some very nice pics: www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/anish-kapoor
--Review by Andrew Smith, October 2009.