Despite being an Indian born British artist, and having moved around in the early part of his life, Anish Kapoor’s work does not appear to be driven by nationality, but instead focuses on the universal nature of the human experience, regardless of gender or nationality. Drawing upon post-minimalist traditions, Kapoor’s abstract work tends to force viewers to look inwardly and outwardly simultaneously upon encountering it. This exhibition, (till June 22) assumed a slightly different approach whereby some of the work tackles gender specific issues, but ultimately there remains the overarching universality that encompasses all of his work.
The Lisson Gallery has held numerous exhibitions highlighting Anish Kapoor’s work, making them meet within the white walls of the exhibition space, and when it comes to his art, use of space is key to ensuring dialogue between the pieces. This exhibition foregrounds Anish Kapoor’s paintings, which are not as widely associated with him as his colossal sculptural works, but equally toy with ideas of form and formlessness. It could be suggested that his paintings are indeed more sculptural than painterly in style, with layered paint protruding from the canvas, giving the works a three-dimensional effect. These rough, built-up strokes on the paintings allow Kapoor to create a similar effect of materiality, as with his sculptures, of matter either leaving (the body in this case) or being cut away from the original form.
Kapoor draws on representations of blood in this exhibition, although this is not the first time he has used this imagery in which images evoke blood as form, as materially containable, and as responsive to the play of light. One may recall Her Blood (1998) with its uterine forms, and blood as a reflective surface. This was followed by the exhibition Blood (2000) wherein blood or spill, as reflection, as mass was evoked. This group of works however seems to be more directly linked to the body and the expulsion or issue of blood from the body instead of his previous and comparably internal sculptures, such as Resin, Air, Space II (1998) which is more focused on containment than release. Both bodies of work play on the fine line and contrast between the internal and external, however this exhibition is more concerned with the physicality in relation to lived experience, where one is directly confronted with the context of the body.
There are also suggested links to menstruation in his paintings in particular. This is seen most clearly in New Blood (2018), Matter Apart (2018) and Out of Me (2018). This forthright depiction highlights that Kapoor enters into a subject matter not traditionally associated with male artists. Menstruation is treated as a universal subject, one that may be given visual form, beyond female subjectivity.
All of the pieces in this exhibition reflect the juxtaposition between the strength and fragility of human experience. The idea of menstruation is a prime example of this - the power and monumentality of potential new beginnings, yet the uncertainty that comes with it. This is seen in the way that the almost aggressive red and black of the paintings are contrasted with the pink onyx sculpture Untitled (2018), within which the rounded stones create a soft, perhaps romanticised, albeit intrusive, sense of femininity from strong materials.
Despite a combination of both painting and sculpture, the Lisson Gallery does particularly well at creating a sense of unity between each of the different pieces, and by the time you are introduced to the monumental structures in the outside space, this feels like a natural transition rather than a vivid distinction between the blood canvases in the entrance hall and the group of stone sculptures which address the body in quite a different way. Three monumental sculptures are housed in the final outside space, all of which distort our perception of reality. For example, the dark, curved surfaces of his granite Untitled (2018), polished to be reflective, do not seem to end where the eye expects them to, extending our perceived range of vision. Again, these pieces present numerous juxtapositions; here we see works in a more natural, yet still enclosed environment, creating an indefinable space which questions our ideas of what it means to be outside but still enclosed, while the ability to see further in our reflection forces us to consider our own boundaries and realities.
There is an invasive, yet organic nature to Kapoor’s work - his sculptures are natural in material but intrusive in size, whereas the wall hangings - particularly his Untitled (2016) series - are intrusive with their bold statements and colours, but organic in their subject matter. Where the sculptures distort our perception of reality and the human condition in a more ideological sense, his paintings and silicone works ask us to confront the uncertainties in the way we perceive the world in a more physical sense through their direct corporeality. In particular this exhibition seems to ask us to focus on our own reality and promotes self-exploration and reflection upon the limitations of our own existence.
The art work aim to ‘probe the most hidden phantasies of our origin and being’ even as the exhibition appears to intentionally create more questions than it can begin to answer. There is both a directness and delicacy in the subject matter and how we can each relate mentally and physically to it, somehow managing to offer a subjectively universal experience is at the core of the experience.