Challenging Imagery and a Journey through the Body at Anish Kapoor

Last evening I attended the private view for Anish Kapoor‘s new solo show at Lisson Gallery. Expecting to see mostly sculpture, I was immediately drawn in by the deep red and white, immensely textured paintings that lined the walls.

Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Silicone and pigment, 2015
Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Silicone and pigment, 2015

“I think I am a painter who is a sculptor,” the Turner Prize winner told Art Monthly in a May 1990 interview, “For me the two things have somehow come together, so that I am making physical things that are all about somewhere else, about illusory space.”

While these resin and silicon paintings definitely incorporate the sculptural medium in their sharp and purposeful three dimensionality, the journey these works took me on felt far from illusory, but rather a graphic and sometimes terrifying trip through the insides of the human body. In fact, this image was so visceral to me, that initially I had to turn away from the work, like when taking in the gory details of a plastic surgery on some reality tv program I shouldn’t admit to watching.

I saw blood, cut-through skin, and palpitating organs in the red, thick slabs of fat in the sinewy layers of white. So real was this interpretation to me that I could swear had I touched the painting, it would still be warm with life. I was alarmed and moved by how deeply this work affected me, and how clear a message came through to me in the abstraction.

Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Silicone and pigment, 2015
Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Silicone and pigment, 2015

According to the exhibition brochure, the “raw internal spaces of the body and the psyche” are in fact the first layer for reading the work, with the deeper concern being “the wider cultural reality of social and political upheaval, violence and trauma.” Kapoor definitely succeeds in portraying these worldwide issues. The agony of the work practically screams from the walls, perhaps echoing the screams of Marsyas, the satyr Apollo flayed alive in one of Kapoor’s preferred Greek myths (recall his 2002 Tate Modern Turbine Hall commission entitled none other than ‘Marsyas). Even the blood red in the new painting evokes the shade of this previous piece.

Alongside these paintings, the new exhibition also showcases some more typical sculptures — two pink onyx works and two stainless steel and gold. Two of these pieces, one from each medium, felt very much body-inspired as well, with distinctively yonic imagery. (I posted one on our Instagram and received the comment, “golden pussy” from a follower.)

Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Stainless steel and gold, 2015
Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Stainless steel and gold, 2015

I must say that this very work was possibly my favourite from the show. You can’t quite tell from the photo, but the sculpture sits precisely in the corner between two walls, which I found to be absolutely brilliant.

These pink and gold pieces were a lovely and needed break from the hard hitting paintings, and all in all tied the exhibition together beautifully.

Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Pink Onyx, 2015
Not yet titled, Anish Kapoor, Pink Onyx, 2015

Congratulations to Anish and Lisson Gallery on another stunning exhibition, which beyond just something to see or even stare at in awe, is a courageous invitation for self exploration and reassessment of our global values.

– India Irving

Anish Kapoor‘ is on view at Lisson Gallery until 9 May 2015; 52-54 Bell Street London, NW1 5DA; Open Monday – Friday 10AM-6PM, Saturday 11AM-5PM; Admission: FREE

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