Anish Kapoor - Royal Academy
We commissioned Kapoor for this year's Brighton Festival, and it was a huge success, indeed the focal and talking point of the entire month. So I was looking forward to this retrospective.
Balls of steel
The RA courtyard has a huge tower of atomic, steel balls, but randomly piled to produce lots of unique reflections, not only of each other but of the buildings and viewers. As they're spheres, nothing remains of the expected perspective. All straight lines become curves. The top few blazed away in the winter sun. The only piece I've seen surpass this in the courtyard was Rodin's Gates to Hell.
I like the colour rather than the forms. They seem far more intense than paint. Red, black and yellow. But this is like a predictable starter. You already know, with Kapoor, that piles of pigment are on the menu.
This huge square is painted in a uniform yellow colour but as it has a deep hollow the light gets progressively weaker and the centre darkens. What really works is getting up and close, so that your peripheral vision is flooded. It's like being in a yellow universe. In this position, as the eye has no depth cues, it's seen as a flat expanse of gradated yellows. It's like walking into colour.
Cannon of colour
A simple steel cannon is primed with pressured air, by a rather serious looking RA bod, then fired every twenty minutes. First time round, we simply saw a sorry slug drop like a slow dogshit from the end of the cannon - a misfire apparently. He reloaded and it was fine. You can see the cylindrical slug of wax move through the air then hit the back wall of the joining room. Our third shot hit the back wall high and hard. You can hear the roar of approved laughter throughout the gallery. Definitely cathartic. This was fun and the mess in the room was true chaos, an absolute cannon up the backside of the stuffy RA.
Kapoor excels at mirror works and this room allows you to see yourself distorted in a thousand ways. It's fun, and surprising, to work out why you appear upside down, fatter, or in a repeated pattern across a huge concave surface. You forget that light travels only in straight lines.
The huge rust-coloured form, that filled the next room, has a vaginal opening at one end, through which one peers into the iron darkness. One then steps through some rather disappointing piles of hardened clay forms to another room with a similar red, crystalline opening and an intestinal tube coiled around behind.
This is the centrepiece, a huge block of red wax on rails moving through three doorways across five rooms, being shaped by the doors. The building becomes the sculptor and the form is dictated by the door template and scrapings.
One great frustration is not being able to feel the stuff. You long to stick your fingers into the wax and rub the pigment. For £12, I'd have given everyone a small tub of the stuff to take home and do their own sculpture.