Born in India to a cosmopolitan family, with an atheist father from a Hindu background and an Iraqi Jewish mother, Anish Kapoor initially planned to become an engineer before moving to London in 1973 to study art. He has lived there ever since. The Romanian artist Paul Neagu was one of his earliest influences. On a visit to India in 1979, he found himself drawn to the bright colours of the clothes and spices in the markets and outside the temples. He began using pure pigments in reference to both the modern Western tradition of monochrome painting and Hindu symbolism. He used the pigments to coat strange shapes installed according to a detailed plan, generating visual echoes in a system of internal relations that he saw as freeing up energy. Powerful colour defined the soft, delicate, tactile bodies of his sculptures.
Kapoor’s work later took an introspective turn. He made much use of concave shapes and darker colours, and his sculptures grew larger. These combined characteristics created the illusion of an ‘empty’ space for the viewer to dive into and explore. Matte pigments gave way to reflective materials, such as bronze and polished stainless steel. These ‘mirrors’ let Kapoor develop the relationship between his works and space even further: they reflect and deform their surroundings and the visitor, who is absorbed into their surface.
This is one such work. We are fascinated to contemplate the large ellipsoid that reverses our bodies, stretching them to exaggerated proportions when we step forward and propelling them into the distance when we step back. Locating the work in the Duchampian and minimalist tradition where art does not exist without an audience, Kapoor compares the close bond between the work and its audience with the married Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. Once hung on the wall, the concave shape draws in and distorts its surroundings, as if questioning the stability of the real world and our own certainties.
Christine Vial Kayser, Anish Kapoor. Le spirituel dans l’art, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2013.
Homi K. Bhabha, Anish Kapoor, Paris, Flammarion, 2011.