Anish Kapoor, Royal Academy

I wrote here before about the advertising for the Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the Royal Academy. Since that post I actually visited the exhibition to have a good poke around and see what this waxy cannon was all about.

The exhibition follows a basic timeline, easing you in with some brightly coloured pigment sculptures which neatly reference Kapoor’s early life in India as well as invoking other art giants such as Yves Klein before moving on to the more recent mirrored surfaces, gobs of wax and shipyard construction techniques.

Anish Kapoor - Shooting into the Corner, 2008-9

Anish Kapoor - Shooting into the Corner, 2008-9

I suppose the first thing to mention  is the sexual side of the work – mostly because you’re beset by sexual organs from the start. In the very first room is a pregnant wall, then there’s the cannon ejaculating red wax and splattering the gooey mess all over the gallery walls, later is the red wax train dripping and slipping its way through gallery openings, somewhere else is Hive – a shipyard construction with a cavernous inner space – that’s followed by concrete squeezed by machines into piles of grey penis shapes and finally there’s a monstrous red fibreglass vulva.

I’ve read reviews which take this both positively and negatively. Some revel in the fun and the mess and the overtness and the luscious sensuality while others (such as Tom Lubbock writing for The Independent) think Kapoor is mostly just indulging his own vanity.

I would say that Shooting into the Corner is both at the same time. When you’re there in the crowd the noise and the mess and the nervous laughter are undeniably fun – it all feels a little wild – but after you leave that moment you are free to remember that Kapoor is, y’know, a Royal Academician. The walls he has carelessly coated with gunk are his own not those of The Man. The cannon starts to feel more like a loud garden fountain.

Anish Kapoor - Svayambh, 2007

Anish Kapoor - Svayambh, 2007

Elsewhere, for fans of red wax Svayambh – the red train thing that looks like a loaf of bread –  is more successful. According to a gallery assistant it started out as a rectangular block and the gallery arches which is has squeezed through have shaped it into a gigantic negative space. It is fascinating in its slowness and strangeness as well as for its physical demonstration of the establishment shaping the art.

My own favourite room was ‘Non-Objects’ – the mirrors. They were hugely engaging and the fun was infectious – watching an elderly woman waving her arms about as she disappeared and then reappeared upside down or a group of previously surly teenagers showing each other where to stand to look thinnest or perhaps hearing other people laugh as I blurted out “Mum! In this one I look tall!” The longer we spent in the room the greater my appreciation of the technical skill involved – the precise shaping that would turn some of the audience upside down, some the right way up and others disappear entirely on the same surface.

Kapoor produces some fascinating work, I just wish I knew where the hi-gloss vapid coffee-table-book-photo-op vaginas fitted into it all. The following comparison is not at all helpful in answering this query but it did make me smile:

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