Anish Kapoor claims that he has as little to say as possible to say in his art. Instead of communicating a message directly, he stands back and leaves the viewer to create meaning through interaction with the works. As visitors to this exhibition we peer into voids, tiptoe amongst piles of concrete and look back at warped reflections of ourselves. Each artwork is a personal voyage of discovery and each work is only made complete when we engage with it.
Kapoor’s work “Svayambh” is a huge block of red wax, Vaseline and paint which moves slowly and deliberately on its tracks through five linked rooms of the gallery. It scrapes against the walls as it passes through the arches between the rooms and leaves behind a debris of sticky residue. There is something horrifying about its scale and the inevitability with which it endlessly moves along its pre-determined route at an almost imperceptible speed.The title of the work derives from a Sanskrit word which means “self-generated”. Like an automatous machine it creates its own shape as we look on in wonderment. The big red block moves so slowly that we can walk from room to room, overtaking it and viewing it from different angles. However, despite beating its speed, we can have no effect on this relentless machine which continues on its path. Kapoor chooses this red sticky substance to play on our association with blood and organic form. This serves to encourage our interaction with the piece reminding us as it does of our own body.
“Shooting into the Corner” (2008-9) makes further use of both movement and blood red wax. Heavy shells are projected at high speed and at regular intervals from a canon onto the white walls of the gallery. The used shells accumulate in a bloody pile on the floor and over time compress and mutate into a thick red mess adding to the work over time. First exhibited in Vienna, the city in which Freud invented psychoanalysis. It is violent, has sexual connotations, and its constant repetition and insistence is unnerving.
It cannot have escaped Kapoor’s notice that to exhibit such a violent work shooting as it does at the walls of the Royal Academy, that temple of academic values, serves to suggest an aggressive attack on the cannon of the Royal Academy itself. Even though he is a Royal Academician himself, Kapoor subtly challenges the Royal Academy’s traditional values. Certainly Kapoor’s approach does not slot seamlessly within its tradition. Kapoor does away with subject matter and asks the viewer to contribute meaning through experience. He attempts to hide any evidence of the artist’s hand, and reduces the prominence of the artist’s place. This stands in stark opposition to the Royal Academy’s traditional emphasis on subject matter, technique, and the cult of the artist.
For more information see the Royal Academy website.