“I think I am a painter who is a sculptor… 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.” Anish Kapoor, interviewed in Art Monthly, May 1990
A radical return to painting marks this new solo show by Anish Kapoor, whose work continues to evolve, seduce and challenge, more than three decades since he first exhibited at Lisson Gallery. A new group of vast, seething red and white resin and silicon paintings, emerging from an intensive process of creative exploration, dominate the main room. These can be read in distinct but overlapping registers, evoking at once the raw internal spaces of the body and the psyche; the humanist and realist painterly tradition of Rembrandt, Soutine and Bacon; and the wider cultural reality of social and political upheaval, violence and trauma.
This new body of work draws on Kapoor’s own artistic history. From his earliest days as an artist he has made two-dimensional works in ink, acrylic, gouache, oil, pigment and earth on both paper and canvas. The new paintings also recall his recent monumental mechanised installations, such as My Red Homeland (2003), Svayambh and Shooting into the Corner (both 2009), which have all employed visceral expanses of red wax; this time the painterly manipulation is wrought by an unknown force, rather than automated by machine. The contested surface of the new silicon works extends Kapoor’s interest in the legend of Marsyas, whose skin was flayed by the Greek god Apollo and whose name was used as title for the artist’s 2002 Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern.
These new works complement the irregular, convex mirrored surface of his twisted elliptical stainless steel sculptures which bend the reflected spaces and viewers back on themselves, reshaping architecture and our spatial experience in turn. Kapoor’s work addresses interiority and exteriority, the psychological states that accompany the movement of bodies in space and their relative proximity to these indefinable objects. Ranging from the intimate to the monumental, Kapoor is this year also preparing for his largest public exhibition to-date, for the palace and gardens of Versailles this summer (from June to October).
Anish Kapoor is one of the most influential sculptors of his generation. Perhaps most famous for public sculptures that are both adventures in form and feats of engineering, he manoeuvres between vastly different scales, across numerous series of work. Immense PVC skins, stretched or deflated; concave or convex mirrors whose reflections attract and swallow the viewer; recesses carved in stone and pigmented so as to disappear: these voids and protrusions summon up deep-felt metaphysical polarities of presence and absence, concealment and revelation. Forms turn themselves inside out, womb-like, and materials are not painted but impregnated with colour, as if to negate the idea of an outer surface, inviting the viewer to the inner reaches of the imagination. Kapoor’s geometric forms from the early 1980s, for example, rise up from the floor and appear to be made of pure pigment, while the viscous, blood-red wax sculptures from the last ten years – kinetic and self-generating – ravage their own surfaces and explode the quiet of the gallery environment. There are resonances with mythologies of the ancient world – Indian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman – and with modern times, where 20th century events loom large.
Anish Kapoor was born in Bombay, India in 1954 and lives and works in London. He studied at Hornsey College of Art (1973–77) followed by postgraduate studies at Chelsea School of Art, London (1977–78). Recent major solo exhibitions include Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Istanbul (2013); Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012); Le Grand Palais, Paris (2011); Mehboob Studios, Mumbai and National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi (2010); Royal Academy of Arts (2009) and the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2002). He represented Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale (1990), for which he was awarded the Premio Duemila. He won the Turner Prize in 1991 and has honorary fellowships from the London Institute and Leeds University (1997), the University of Wolverhampton (1999) and the Royal Institute of British Architecture (2001). He was awarded a CBE in 2003 and a Knighthood in 2013 for services to visual arts.