ARTYFACTS: Afterthoughts on Anish

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Afterthoughts on Anish

The Year of Anish was, as they say ‘interesting’, a word that can mean lots of things. First the noise. Anish, Yentob and the gallery owners, administrators have those annoyingly posh accents that make you want to turn the programme to mute. Anish himself, is incredibly inarticulate about his work. He’d say that was deliberate, I’m not so sure.

But then there's the positives. Kapoor understands that art is a ‘process or experience’. He’s Humean in his aesthetic. An aesthetic experience takes place in time with expectations, the experience and its aftermath. The Sky Mirror, at the Brighton Festival, was an ever-changing reflection of the real world, the sky, the Pavilion Gardens, the people who drift by, stop and look. and the landscape, even sheep of the Downs. Its limitation was its small size and limited access. These restrictions were removed at the C-Curve, and what a difference in the aesthetic experience. It was open, unrestricted, panoramic.

One major dimension of his work is light, as reflection and colour. His ‘mirrored’ pieces take you beyond the normal perception of light to its scientific beauty. To understand the effects you need to understand that light travels in straight lines, that it is observer-dependent and that colour is a complex absence. Yellow means that the other colours are missing from white light. He works in simple, often single or contrasted pairs of colours. Their purity is a paring down.

His fondness for ‘red’ gives us a bloody, corporeal experience. It’s too simplistic to say it’s dangerous. Red unbalances the viewer, puts them on edge. When do you normally SEE red – blood, meat, lips, vaginas, roses. It’s a phobic colour, like seeing a snake or spider. It induces intense interest and attention. However, his ‘yellow’ piece in the Royal Academy, had a similar, but different effect. Yellow is the colour of the sun, cheese and daisy hearts, an optimistic colour and being flooded by an expanse of yellow, is like drinking Red Bull, it’s invigorating.

Then there’s the ‘flips’. The sudden contrast in your experience, between the inside/outside, front, back, right/left, upside down, right way up. It takes away your normal perceptual reference points and depth cues.

Remember, he’s a sculptor , and the exploration of light and colour, is best dealt with in 3D. Colour has luminosity and intensity, and varies as the light source and observer moves. This can only be explored half-hearted in 2D painting. He’s a philosophical artist in that he understands that perceptually we recreate the world from our sensory input. Note that WE create the world. The artist creates the stimulus for this experience, but ultimately it‘s the viewers brain that constructs the experience in consciousness. I love the ‘Bean’ in Chicago, but dislike the fact that you can’t touch anything in England.

What I really like about Kapoor is that he doesn’t settle for art as it is. For him it’s a process, for us it’s a process. Shooting into a Corner is extraordinary, painting by gun, what an idea!

But let’s not be too hagiographic. Kapoor has the capacity to literally churn out rubbish. His concrete squirts in the Royal Academy, are second rate.


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